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Chipotle Closes Locations In Washington, Oregon After E. Coli Outbreak

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 1/11/2015 Kim Bellware
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An E. coli outbreak linked to Chipotle restaurants has infected at least 23 people in the Seattle and Portland, Oregon, areas.

The Mexican fast-food chain, "out of an abundance of caution," temporarily closed 43 of its restaurants in the Pacific Northwest region, a company spokesman said Sunday.

Neither health officials nor Chipotle representatives identified which food item may be linked to the outbreak. 

Four of the E. coli infections come from Oregon -- up from the previous total of three, Oregon Public Health spokesman Jonathan Modie confirmed Sunday. Washington public health officials confirmed 19 infections in a Saturday statement. 

Those infected in both states range from 11 to 64 years old, and one-third have been hospitalized, Oregon health officials said in a statement. No one reporting symptoms has died, officials said. 

Public health divisions in the affected states said reports of the outbreak have come from people in the Oregon counties of Clackamas and Washington and the Washington state counties of Clark, King, Skagit and Cowlitz. 

Oregon health officials urged anyone who ate at a Chipotle between Oct. 14 and Oct. 23 and became ill with vomiting or bloody diarrhea to see a doctor and mention the outbreak.

Though symptoms of the E. coli bacteria vary, they can include "severe stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody), vomiting and sometimes fever," according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Cases can range from mild to life-threatening. 

In a statement, Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said the company is working with health officials on the case and offered its "deepest sympathies" to those affected by the outbreak.

"The safety and wellbeing of our customers is always our highest priority," Arnold said. "After being notified by health department officials in the Seattle and Portland, Ore. areas that they were investigating approximately 20 cases of E. coli, including people who ate at six of our restaurants in those areas, we immediately closed all of our restaurants in the area out of an abundance of caution, even though the vast majority of these restaurants have no reported problems."

Arnold noted that there have been no illnesses reported outside of Washington and Oregon. He did not comment on any of the pending food poisoning lawsuits against the company.

The company faces several lawsuits from unrelated cases in California and Minnesota. Two women in California are suing for damages after a norovirus infection, while at least four people in Minnesota have sued over a summer salmonella outbreak linked to contaminated tomatoes. 

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