This weekend, Chipotle shut the doors on 43 establishments in the Pacific Northwest after 23 suspected cases of E. coli have been linked to the restaurant’s uncooked ingredients.
“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,” the chain restaurant announced in a statement.
The number of sick people is only expected to grow, according to health officials in Seattle. Anyone who has eaten at Chipotle since mid-October and experienced intestinal sickness has been asked to go to their doctor and report their symptoms immediately. Closures are limited to Washington and Oregon, and while Chipotle doesn’t expect to shutter any more branches, this isn’t the first time this year that Chipotle has sent people to the hospital—around 100 people experienced a variety of ailments linked to a single Chipotle location in California in August.
The closed Chipotles in Seattle and Portland will reopen as investigations clear individual stores, but in the meantime, here’s why you should avoid any possible risk of E. Coli.
1. Symptoms after being infected are everything you don’t want to feel
E. coli causes different symptoms in each person infected, but the symptoms often include severe stomach cramps, bloody diarrhea, vomiting and a low grade fever. The symptoms range from mild to life threatening, and last around five to seven days.
2. E. coli comes from eating poop
Miniscule amounts of human and/or animal feces sit in unpasteurized liquids, undercooked meat and unwashed fruits and vegetables. When you cook the foods properly—and with clean hands—the E. coli bacteria is killed. When foods are undercooked, or cooked by individuals who haven’t washed their hands after, say, using the bathroom, E. coli spreads.
3. The specific E. coli-contaminated food at Chipotle has yet to be found
In Washington, 17 of the 19 people who got sick ate at Chipotle, but the exact food item that links all of the cases together has yet to be identified. Health officials are collecting and testing food samples.
4. If you’re really unlucky, E. coli could kill you
Although most people who get sick from E. coli recover, around five to ten percent of people diagnosed develop a life-threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS). Most people with HUS recover within a few weeks, but others suffer permanent kidney damage or die.