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Norovirus-Like Illness Linked to This Mexican Chain, Health Officials Say

So far, 13 people have reported falling ill after visiting the chain restaurant. 

Public health officials in Seattle & King County are probing an apparent norovirus outbreak after 13 people reported falling ill after visiting a West Coast Mexican chain.

The group dined on May 21 at the Mazatlan restaurant located in the Seattle suburb of Auburn, Wash. According to the health department, symptoms of the ensuing "norovirus-like illness" included body aches, chills, diarrhea, and vomiting.

Officials have thus far been unable to determine how the virus was spread. Mazatlan, which started in 1968, now has 14 locations in the Pacific Northwest.

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"We have not identified how norovirus was spread within the [impacted] restaurant," the department said. "This is not uncommon for norovirus outbreaks because the virus can spread through multiple contaminated food items, environmental surfaces, and from person to person."

A previous inspection apparently revealed "high-risk violations" at the same location last year. Per food Food Safety News, those included:

  • Failure to keep raw meats below and away from ready to eat food;
  • Failure to meet proper reheating procedures for hot holding;
  • Failure to maintain proper barriers to prevent bare hand contact with ready to eat foods;
  • Failure to keep nonfood contact surfaces maintained and clean; and
  • Failure to properly use, store and sanitize wiping clothes.

However, the violations were reportedly resolved in a follow-up inspection that same month. When officials investigated the location on May 26, they found no risk factors "known to contribute to the spread of norovirus." Mazatlan voluntarily closed its doors in Auburn so that the restaurant could be cleaned and disenfected, according to the health department.

This is the second such norovirus-like outbreak revealed in King County in the span of a week, KING-TV reported. A norovirus-like illness connected to Habit Burger Grill was early announced by the department on June 2. It included 23 cases.

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Krissy Gasbarre
Krissy is a senior news editor at Eat This, Not That!, managing morning and weekend news related to nutrition, wellness, restaurants and groceries (with a focus on beverages), and more. Read more