The outbreak of E. coli at Chipotle restaurants in the Pacific Northwest has spread to more states and locally, with two cases reported in Turlock, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC reported that the E. coli strain has recently been detected in three states, bringing the total to six states with 45 people sickened by the outbreak, including two who ate at the Chipotle Mexican Grill in Turlock at 3090 Countryside Drive.
The CDC is still trying to ascertain what specific food is linked to the evidence, but what they do know suggests it is coming from a “common meal item or ingredient served at Chipotle.” The CDC said 96 percent of the sickened individuals reported eating at a Chipotle Mexican Grill in the week before their illness started.
Of the 45 people sickened by the illness, 16 of them have been hospitalized. There have been no deaths reported from the outbreak. In addition to the two individuals sickened in the outbreak from the Turlock location, there have been two cases confirmed in Minnesota, one case each in New York and Ohio, 13 cases in Oregon, and 26 in Washington, where it is believed to have started.
The individuals sickened in the outbreak range in age from 2 years to 94 years, with a median age of 22, according to the CDC. The illnesses began appearing around Oct. 19 and have continued up to Nov. 8. The CDC cautioned the number of people sickened by the outbreak could increase because there could be cases that have yet to be reported or confirmed.
Chipotle is working with public health agencies in the six states to help track the source of the E. coli. Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. closed 43 restaurants in Oregon and Washington in late October after health officials discovered most of the people sickened in the outbreak had eaten at its restaurants. The restaurants have since reopened.
The Chipotle in Turlock was open for business Friday. The restaurant was inspected by the Stanislaus County Environmental Resources Department after the outbreak was confirmed and inspectors found no issues at the eatery.
"At the moment, we do not believe that it is necessary to close any restaurants," Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold said in an email to the Associated Press. He said the company has taken measures including deep cleaning in restaurants, replacing ingredients and providing supply chain data to investigators.
Chipotle, based in Denver, has more than 1,900 locations and has gained popularity by touting the freshness and quality of its ingredients. Earlier this year, the company ran into trouble after suspending a pork supplier that violated its animal welfare standards. That led to a shortage of carnitas at hundreds of locations around the country, which the company said dampened its sales growth.
On news Friday that the outbreak had spread, shares of Chipotle plunged more than 12 percent to a new low for the year.
The company said it is not aware of any employees who have become ill.
E. coli bacteria normally live in the intestines of people and animals. Most E. coli are harmless and actually are an important part of a healthy human intestinal tract. However, some E. coli are pathogenic, meaning they can cause illness, either diarrhea or illness outside of the intestinal tract. The types of E. coli that can cause diarrhea can be transmitted through contaminated water or food, or through contact with animals or persons.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.