(Reuters) - At least 80 students in Boston have been sickened by norovirus linked to a Chipotle restaurant, the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) said on Wednesday, indicating that the outbreak may not be related to a spate of E. coli infections in several states.
The BPHC said laboratory testing had confirmed the presence of norovirus and that at least 80 of the known cases had eaten at a Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc restaurant in Boston’s Cleveland Circle.
People who have been in physical proximity to the infected have also become ill, the commission said, adding that Boston College had received reports of students' roommates contracting the illness. (bit.ly/1U4N0DX)
Chipotle has been under scrutiny since November, when it was first linked to an E. coli outbreak that has sickened 52 people in nine states.
The burrito chain’s restaurant in Cleveland Circle has been temporarily closed while the Boston Inspectional Services Department and BPHC continue investigations.
Chipotle said it would complete a full norovirus sanitization in the restaurant, and employees of that outlet would not return to work until they had been tested for norovirus and cleared.
Shares of Chipotle closed up 1 percent at $548.01 on Wednesday.
Over 120 Boston College students have reported to Boston College Health Services with symptoms consistent with the norovirus, Boston College spokesman Jack Dunn said.
The students have also been tested for E. coli, but results are awaited, he said.
Norovirus is a highly contagious virus easily passed among those in close proximity and can spread through contaminated food, improper hygiene, and contact with contaminated surfaces.
The virus can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea and incubation can occur between two and eight days.
The E. coli outbreak last month was the company’s third food safety incident since August. It has raised concerns about potential reputational damage to the fast-growing brand that has won a loyal following for its food made with fresh produce, meats raised without antibiotics and ingredients that are free of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.
In August, norovirus was blamed for sickening nearly 100 people at a Chipotle restaurant in Simi Valley, California.
Reporting by Subrat Patnaik in Bengaluru; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Maju Samuel