Shigella Outbreak: Infected restaurant worker was not the cause of outbreak, officials say

 

UPDATE: The source of an infectious bacterial disease linked with a Mexican seafood restaurant in San Jose that has left almost 200 people ill may never be identified, a Santa Clara County public health official said Thursday.

There are 190 people who have become sick from the Mariscos San Juan restaurant #3 at 205 N. Fourth St., which includes 39 cases outside of Santa Clara County, according to public health officials.

Of the 94 people confirmed with shigella, 74 are in Santa Clara County, 11 in Alameda County, three in San Mateo County, three in Santa Cruz County, one in Marin County and two in Merced County, public health officials said.

Most of the sick people who needed hospitalization have been released, Santa Clara County Deputy Health Officer Dr. George Han said during a news conference Thursday afternoon.

One of eight workers at the restaurant tested positive for shigella, a contagious diarrhoeal illness that has also been caught by 94 of the 190 people in six counties. However, it doesn’t appear the worker with shigella caused the outbreak based on the onset of symptoms experienced by the individual, but instead ate food from the restaurant and became sick, Han said.

About two-thirds of public health investigations nationwide into foodborne illnesses don’t identify the exact source of the outbreak, according to Han.

There is no indication that the outbreak’s source was a specific food item contaminated before reaching the Fourth Street location. No other restaurants reported any shigella cases and most of the customers who became sick ate a variety of dishes, Han said.

The restaurant’s two other locations on Willow Street and Senter Road remain open.

The total cases include 22 people, including the restaurant employee, who have occupations that include direct contact such as food service, childcare and health care, and who cannot return to work until they recover from the illness, public health officials said.

“At this point I am glad to say that the outbreak appears to be winding down,” Han said, adding that the county is still following up on suspected cases.

The source was most likely from an infected food handler at the restaurant who contaminated the entrees with their hands, he said.

It’s possible a worker may have taken antibiotics and was cleared of the bacteria before the county obtained stool specimens, according to Han.

The food handlers who were tested did not report that they took antibiotics, Han said.

There were three possible secondary cases, in which a person who ate at the restaurant and caught shigella spread the disease to someone else, according to public health officials.

“The good news is that this outbreak of shigella appears to have leveled off,” Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said in a statement Thursday.

“Despite not having a ‘smoking gun’ that caused the outbreak, we do know that the outbreak stemmed from this restaurant, and we have taken the necessary actions to protect the public,” Cody said.

It can take one to two days for someone to experience shigella symptoms, which include diarrhea, fever, abdominal cramps and vomiting, public health officials.

An infected person can experience the symptoms for five to seven days before they recover, but their bowel habits won’t return to normal for several months, public health officials said.

Three San Jose men who ate at the restaurant and developed shigella have filed separate lawsuits in Santa Clara County Superior Court alleging negligence by the restaurant’s owners, Sergio Becerra Cruz and Lourdes Garcia Becerra, according to their attorneys at the firms Rains Lucia Stern, PC, in San Francisco, and Marler Clark in Seattle, Washington.

SANTA CLARA (KRON) — Health officials Thursday announced the results of lab results from all the food handlers working at the restaurant where dozens of people fell ill with Shigella, and they say that the one infected worker was not the cause of the outbreak.

There are 188 people who have fallen ill in association with Mariscos San Juan #3 restaurant at 205 N. Fourth St., public health officials said. A majority of the sick ate at the restaurant on Oct. 16 or 17 before the location was closed on Oct. 18.

“Based on work schedules and the onset of the food handler’s illness, the department believes that the individual who tested positive for Shigella likely contracted the disease as a result of the outbreak and was not the cause of it,” said Allison Thrash, Santa Clara County Public Health Department spokesperson.

The Santa Clara County Public Health Department said that of all the food handlers who worked at Mariscos San Juan #3 restaurant during the Shigella outbreak on October 16th and 17th, only one tested positive for the contagious diarrhoeal disease.

The worker has been restricted from working until it is determined that the individual is Shigella-free.

“The good news is that this outbreak of Shigella appears to have leveled off,” said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Health Officer. “We continue to emphasize proper hand washing and staying home if you are ill, and we will continue to monitor for secondary spread. Despite not having a ‘smoking gun’ that caused the outbreak, we do know that the outbreak stemmed from this restaurant, and we have taken the necessary actions to protect the public.”

The store has been closed since Oct. 18, but the owner has been working with health officials to take the necessary steps to reopen the restaurant.

Those with the disease experience symptoms including diarrhea that can sometimes be bloody, fever, abdominal pain and vomiting within one to two days of exposure, public health officials said.

The symptoms can continue for five days to a week and people can fully recover, but their bowel behavior can take months to stabilize, public health officials said.

Bay City News contributed to this report.

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