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Suspected Norovirus at California Tacos in Lakewood

Communications Specialist Steve Metcalf
by Steve Metcalf02/26/2019 5:04 p.m.
Updated: 03/08/2019

Update March 8, 2019

We have worked with employees at California Tacos to ensure they follow food safety practices to keep the public safe. Since the norovirus outbreak in late February, they have taken steps to do just that.

Lab results confirm norovirus made customers and employees sick at California Tacos. Four food workers tested positive for norovirus. A customer who got tested was also positive. In all, we identified 19 ill customers and four ill employees from the outbreak.

Employees were the source of the outbreak. Their illness onset was before the customers’. The only common link we found among the ill customers was they ate at the restaurant.

The norovirus outbreaks at California Tacos and Tijuana Taco have no connection. The type of norovirus from the two outbreaks is not the same.

Norovirus is a highly contagious foodborne illness that’s more common during the colder months. Food workers can take steps to prevent exposure to the virus and keep it from spreading:

  • Wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water. This is especially after bathroom visits and cleaning.
  • Avoid barehand contact with ready-to-eat food—sandwiches, salads, etc. Use disposable gloves or utensils like tongs instead.
  • Stay home if you’re sick.

Learn more at www.tpchd.org/norovirus.

This is our last blog post on the outbreak. Read the original post and our other updates to learn more.

Update March 4, 2019

Reports of illness remain at 19 customers who say they got sick after they ate at California Tacos. That’s the same number of cases we reported in our last update on March 1. Because reports of illness have decreased, this will be our last regular update on the suspected norovirus outbreak.

We will update this post once we receive lab results.

Read the original post and our updates for more.

Update March 1, 2019

Two more people have reported norovirus-like illness to the Health Department after they said they ate at California Tacos. As of today, 19 customers have contacted us with reports of illness from this suspected norovirus outbreak.

We’ve collected samples from ill customers and restaurant employees for testing. We’ll report the findings of those lab tests once we have them, which could be in the next week or two.

Read the original post and our updates for more.

Update Feb. 28, 2019

The Health Department has received reports from six more people with norovirus-like illness who said they ate at California Tacos. To date, we have received 17 reports of illness from this suspected norovirus outbreak.

Two restaurant employees were ill between last Wednesday (Feb. 20) and Saturday (Feb. 23). They will get tested for norovirus. The period coincides with the time customers dined at the restaurant and later got ill.

We have found no connection to the suspected norovirus outbreak at Tijuana Tacos, which is also in Lakewood. Our investigation is ongoing.

If you ate at either restaurant and got sick, contact the Health Department at food@tpchd.org, report your illness online, or call (253) 798-4712.

Update Feb. 27, 2019

The Health Department cleared California Tacos to reopen today after 3 p.m. Employees met the required preopening steps to clean and sanitize the restaurant. We closed California Tacos yesterday because customers reported norovirus-like illness after they ate there. To date, we have reports of 11 ill customers.

Since our last report, eight more people reported getting ill after they ate at the restaurant. The eight customers come from three separate households. Three of the households ate at the restaurant on Sunday (Feb. 24) and one on Thursday (Feb. 21).

Two restaurant employees were ill between last Wednesday (Feb. 20) and Saturday (Feb. 23). They will get tested for norovirus.

We have found no connection to the suspected norovirus outbreak at Tijuana Tacos, which is also in Lakewood. Our investigation is ongoing.

If you ate at either restaurant and got sick, contact the Health Department at food@tpchd.org, report your illness online, or call (253) 798-4712.

Original Post from Feb. 26, 2019

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is working with California Tacos, 14818 Union Ave. SW, Lakewood, on a suspected norovirus outbreak. The Health Department closed the restaurant around 3 p.m. today for at least 24 hours. Employees will clean and sanitize the food establishment to ensure the public is no longer at risk.

Customers who ate at California Tacos and became ill should contact the Health Department at food@tpchd.org, report your illness online, or call (253) 798-4712.

Three people in the same group but from separate households reported norovirus-like symptoms today after they ate at the restaurant Sunday.

At least two restaurant employees reported being ill between last Wednesday (Feb. 20) and Saturday. They will get tested for norovirus.

Norovirus is highly contagious. It can cause diarrhea and vomiting, often at the same time. Symptoms typically last a day or two. It is the same virus often related to cruise ship outbreaks.

In addition to cleaning and sanitizing the restaurant, staff will throw out all ready-to-eat foods like vegetables, bread, and cheese.

The state’s Paid Sick Leave Law means food workers don’t have to face financial hardship when they take time off from work to care of their health. Learn more about paid sick leave on the Labor and Industries website

Cleaning for norovirus

Clean vomit or diarrhea accidents immediately.

Step 1. Remove vomit or poop.

  • Pick up the chunks with paper towels or other disposable material.
  • Soak up liquids with absorbent materials. Use kitty litter or dry oatmeal for carpeted areas.
  • Double bag and discard.
  • Do not use a vacuum cleaner.

Step 2. Sanitize.

  • Disinfect hard surfaces using 1 2/3 cups of household bleach per gallon of water. Allow for 1 minute of contact time.
  • Sanitize all handles and knobs in your house with the bleach solution.
  • Linens (including clothing, towels, napkins): Wash separately in hot water and dry on high.
  • Steam clean carpets using the highest setting for heat.
  • Avoid cross-contamination (use separate sanitation cloths for bathroom and other surfaces).
  • Clean and disinfect all containers used (e.g., buckets).

Handwashing

Wash hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. Especially after cleaning, restroom use and before eating.

If you ate at California Tacos and became ill, contact the Health Department at food@tpchd.org, report online, or call (253) 798-4712.

Learn more about norovirus and sign up for restaurant closures.

  1. Updated: 03/08/2019
  2. Updated: 03/04/2019
  3. Updated: 03/01/2019
  4. Updated: 02/28/2019
  5. Updated: 02/27/2019
Communications Specialist Steve Metcalf

by Steve Metcalf

Steve helps share timely and relevant public health information.

 

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