Just when things are doing well for Chipotle after being in the hot seat due to a series of food-borne illness outbreaks in 2015, a Massachusetts branch had to shut down after an employee tested positive for norovirus.
Four employees got sick at a Chipotle restaurant in Billerica and the company decided to close the establishment to pave way for full sanitation. No customers have been reported sick due to the viral infection.
"After learning that four of our employees were not feeling well, our restaurant in Billerica, Mass. was closed for a full sanitization," said a Chipotle spokesperson.
"We do not know if the employees are ill with norovirus and no customers illnesses are connected to this restaurant. Any employees who reported feeling ill will be tested and held out of the restaurant until they fully recover," the spokesperson added.
The Department of Health said that one of the employees has a confirmed case of norovirus, a very contagious viral infection that can be passed through contaminated food or water or by touching contaminated surfaces, while two others are suspected cases.
Three of the employees called in sick for their shifts but there may have been up to four employees who are not feeling well.
"The employees did not come into the restaurant," said Sandra Giroux from the Billerica Board of Health.
"They called in sick. Chipotle has voluntarily shut down and are throwing away all of the food items in the store and are sanitizing everything according to their new protocol," she added.
It will take about a couple of days before the restaurant will be opened for business as it needs to be sanitized and cleaned.
What Is A Norovirus Infection?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a norovirus is a very contagious virus that could infect anyone.
It causes inflammation on the stomach and intestine, which is termed as acute gastroenteritis. The common signs and symptoms of the infection include stomach pain, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. While most patients recover within days, the illness can be serious especially for young children and older adults.
In the United States, this virus is one of the most common causes of acute gastroenteritis and each year, about 19 to 21 million illnesses are linked to norovirus. It also contributes to about 56,000 to 71,000 hospitalizations and 570 to 800 deaths each year.
Still, just like any other food borne illness, the best way to prevent norovirus infection is the practice of proper hand washing. Store owners and restaurants should also make sure the surroundings, especially areas where food is prepared, are clean at sanitized.
Photo: Mike Mozart | Flickr