The week started with 41 reports of ill diners, which led to the closure of El Toro in Tacoma’s Westgate neighborhood Monday.
The restaurant reopened Tuesday after sanitizing and taking other preventive measures.
By Wednesday, reports of ill customers had extended to its sister restaurant in University Place and that location also closed for sanitizing.
That location reopened Thursday.
So far, about 10-15 people have reported illness after dining at the University Place location at 3820 Bridgeport Way W.
The Tacoma location had 391 reports as of Thursday at its Westgate location at 5716 N. 26th St.
When did the infections occur?
Diners who became ill reported they dined at the University Place location Jan. 6. At the Westgate location, diners became ill after visiting the restaurant between Dec. 31 and Jan. 8.
There might be more: The health department still is investigating reports. The numbers could increase.
“We don’t yet have an exact number because we have not interviewed all the people who have made illness reports. We continue to receive additional illness reports,” the health department said in a statement.
What’s the source?
That’s still unknown.
“We know two staff members at the Tacoma location worked while ill during the time customers there dined and later got sick. It’s still unclear if the outbreaks at the two locations are connected,” the health department reported. “Because of the nature of norovirus outbreaks, we may never know the exact affected items that caused illness. We know all the cases have dining at the El Toro Restaurants in common.”
Earlier this week, the health department suspected chips and salsa were a common factor in the outbreak, but further investigation revealed that “each restaurant makes everything in-house. They make their own salsa from scratch.”
What if I ate there?
If you ate at an El Toro and became ill, contact the health department to file a report at 253-798-4712. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or make an online report at tpchd.org/reportfoodborneillness.
If you are sick:
Quarantine yourself until 48 hours after symptoms have passed. Be aware that some sick with norovirus continue to be contagious for up to two weeks after an infection. Washing hands with warm water for at least 20 seconds is vital to prevent the spread of the infection.
Why did this spread so quickly?
Norovirus is a pesky virus that can live on some surfaces up to three weeks. The virus is difficult to kill and it spreads easily. The health department recommends disinfecting with a strong beach solution.
What are the symptoms?
Vomiting, diarrhea and generally feeling horrible. Also, some patients will experience a fever and headache. If you’re struck with norovirus, staying hydrated is important. The illness usually lasts one to three days. Symptoms after an infection can appear between 12 to 48 hours later.
What’s next in the investigation?
The health department will continue interviewing people they have not yet spoken with.
“For restaurant closures of this type, we always schedule an educational visit where all employees, management, and owners review food-safety practices and procedures,” according to the department. “We also follow up with an inspection after the educational visit.”
More Information About Norovirus:
About-Norovirus.com is a comprehensive site with in-depth information about norovirus infection.
Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Norovirus outbreaks. The Norovirus lawyers of Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of Norovirus and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $600 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. Our Norovirus lawyers have litigated Norovirus cases stemming from outbreaks traced to a number of food products and restaurants.
If you or a family member became ill with Norovirus after consuming food and you’re interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Norovirus attorneys for a free case evaluation.