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A blog by your local public health experts

Suspected Norovirus Outbreak at Tijuana Taco in Lakewood

Communications Specialist Steve Metcalf
by Steve Metcalf02/27/2019 1:54 p.m.
Updated: 03/08/2019

Update March 8, 2019

We have worked with employees at Tijuana Taco 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 Tijuana Taco. Three food workers tested positive for norovirus. Two customers who got tested were also positive. In all, we identified 46 ill customers and three ill employees from the outbreak. In previous updates, we reported a higher number of ill customers. We determined some of them did not meet the illness case definition.

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 Tijuana Taco and California Tacos 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 51 customers who say they got sick after they ate at Tijuana Taco. 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

Since our last update, 13 more people have reported norovirus-like illness to the Health Department after they said they ate at Tijuana Taco. As of today, 51 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 cleared Tijuana Taco to reopen late this morning. Employees met the required preopening steps to clean and sanitize the restaurant. The restaurant’s food truck also reopened. We closed Tijuana Taco yesterday because customers reported norovirus-like illness after they ate there. To date, we have reports of 38 ill customers from the suspected norovirus outbreak.

Since our last report, 33 more people reported getting ill after they ate at the restaurant. They all report getting sick Feb. 23 after they ate at the restaurant Feb. 22. Two restaurant employees who worked Feb. 22 also reported they got sick Feb. 23. The employees will get tested for norovirus.

We have found no connection to the suspected norovirus outbreak at California 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 Feb. 27, 2019

Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department is working with Tijuana Taco, 1005 Bristol Ave. SW, Lakewood, on a suspected norovirus outbreak. The Health Department closed the restaurant late this morning for at least 24 hours. Employees will clean and sanitize the food establishment to ensure the public is no longer at risk.

We also temporarily closed Tijuana Taco’s food truck. We do not have reports of norovirus on the truck, but all food for the truck comes from the restaurant.

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

Five people from two households—three people in one household and two in the other—said they had norovirus-like symptoms Saturday (Feb. 23) after they ate at the restaurant Friday (Feb. 22). They reported their illness to us today. Two restaurant employees who worked Feb. 22 also reported they got sick Feb. 23. The employees will get tested for norovirus.

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

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

Norovirus Infographic 2018

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

We need to keep norovirus out of food establishments to prevent outbreaks. Fresh, ready-to-eat foods that requires lots of hands-on preparation—sandwiches, salads, fruit cups—have a higher chance of involvement in a norovirus outbreak. To protect customers from norovirus and other foodborne illness:

  • 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.
  • Stay home if you’re sick.

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).

If you ate at Tijuana Taco 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
Communications Specialist Steve Metcalf

by Steve Metcalf

Steve helps share timely and relevant public health information.

 

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