Chipotle to pay for medical treatment

Kiera Manion-Fischer

Health dept. says norovirus may be cause

As of Monday, 432 people have reported to the Kent City health department that they got sick after eating at Chipotle Mexican Grill on state Route 59 in Kent.

Health Commissioner John Ferlito said all the people who got the symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea ate at Chipotle on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday last week before the restaurant closed Friday to sanitize its facilities.

Chipotle announced in a press release earlier this week that the restaurant chain has established a process for people who believe they got sick through eating at the restaurant to be reimbursed for their medical bills. Customers can file claims by calling Chipotle at (888) 366-2150.

Sophomore nutrition major Megan Swaggard had to go to the emergency room Friday after eating at Chipotle on Wednesday. She hasn’t gotten the bill yet.

“I have no hard feelings,” she said. “My stomach is still upset though. I’m really excited that they’re going to pay.”

Ferlito said the Health Department suspects the outbreak to have been caused by a norovirus because of the symptoms and the amount of time they lasted.

Noroviruses cause an inflammation of the stomach and small and large intestines, and there are no long term complications from the disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Web site.

The symptoms appeared about 28 to 29 hours after people had eaten there and lasted two to three days, Ferlito said.

He said it could have been transmitted through contaminated food or by an employee. The exact cause may not be known until the end of the week, after the Ohio Health Department tests the food and stool samples collected last week, Ferlito said.

Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said in an e-mail that the employees who worked those days last week have been temporarily replaced by other employees who weren’t in the store and shouldn’t have been exposed to the possible norovirus. They will return to work when they are healthy enough, he wrote in the e-mail.

“Since the store decided to voluntarily close and clean everything and change their employees, we haven’t seen any new cases,” Ferlito said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the norovirus can be spread by food handlers who are sick. The virus is found in the stool and vomit of infected people.

“If you’ve been taking care of people who have the disease, you need to wash your hands very carefully,” Ferlito said. “You could get it.”

Sarah Albert, senior accounting and marketing major, didn’t go to the doctor so she didn’t have any medical bills, but she e-mailed Chipotle and a representative from the company told her he would send coupons for free burritos.

“Hey, it’s better than nothing,” she said. “I’m a big fan of Chipotle.”

Contact safety reporter Kiera Manion-Fischer at [email protected].