Shigella outbreak cases reported in East Bay, Peninsula

An outbreak of an infectious intestinal illness linked with a San Jose restaurant that has left more than 100 people ill has spread to neighboring counties, a Santa Clara County public health official said Thursday.

There are 110 reports of people becoming sick from Mariscos San Juan restaurant #3, a Mexican seafood eatery located at 205 N. Fourth St., Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said during a news conference this morning.

Santa Clara County has seen 92 people fall ill, with 19 confirmed to be Shigella, Cody said.

Eighteen other cases were discovered in Alameda, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties, she said.

A majority of the sick ate food from the restaurant on Friday or Saturday and the county is expecting to see more secondary cases, in which people had contact with someone who ate the restaurant, Cody said.

Three Shigella cases were confirmed Wednesday in San Mateo County, health spokeswoman Amy Brooks said.

As of Wednesday evening, five adults and a child were found with Shigella in Alameda County, with three of the ill needing hospitalization, county health spokeswoman Sherri Willis said.

Santa Cruz County is looking into five suspected cases of Shigella linked with the restaurant that were reported Monday, county Health Officer Dr. Lisa Fernandez said.

Most of the ill have gone to a hospital and a dozen people in Santa Clara County were sent to an intensive care unit, but have either been discharged or transferred to another part of the facility, Santa Clara County deputy Health Officer Dr. George Han said.

People can catch Shigella if they have direct contact or eat food or drink prepared by someone with the disease, according to Cody.

Symptoms of Shigella include diarrhea, fever, abdominal pain and vomiting that can start one to two days after exposure, public health officials said.

“It’s quite contagious and it doesn’t take very many individual organisms to get ill,” Cody said.

The symptoms can last for five to seven days but it can take months before a person’s bowel behavior returns to normal, public health officials.

One person reported becoming sick six hours after eating at the restaurant and some people may have a longer incubation period before they experience the symptoms, Cody said.

In the past five years, Santa Clara County has seen an annual average of 50 to 60 Shigella cases, Cody said.

Cody stressed the importance of thorough hand-washing with soap and water after using a bathroom or before caring for someone else.

The restaurant has been closed since Sunday as the investigation continues into the outbreak, said Michael Balliet, director of the consumer protection division at the Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health, which oversees food inspectors.

The business owners have been cooperative with the investigation, Balliet said.

Two separate lawsuits were filed Wednesday by two San Jose men who suffered from Shigella after eating at the restaurant last week.

Redwood City restaurant and bar Viva Mexico had a Shigella outbreak in 2000, when a Sunnyvale woman died and 70 of 200 people who complained of food poisoning were found with the contagious disease, San Mateo County health officials.

The Viva Mexico owners settled a wrongful death lawsuit with the woman’s family for $650,000, according to court documents.

 Santa Clara County HealthShigella

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