King County health officials are investigating an outbreak of E. coli food poisoning at Memo’s Mexican Restaurant in Seattle, but they say it doesn’t appear to be linked to a previous outbreak at the Matador.
For the second time in a week, King County health officials are investigating an outbreak of potentially dangerous E. coli food poisoning linked to a Mexican-style restaurant, but they say the incidents don’t appear related.
An outbreak of Shiga-toxin producing E. coli O157: H7 (STEC) sickened two people who ate at Memo’s Mexican Food in Seattle’s University District in August, officials with Public Health — Seattle & King County reported Wednesday.
Laboratory testing showed those illnesses were caused by the same strain of the bacteria.
But it’s different from the strain that has sickened 10 other people, including six who ate at the Matador restaurant in Ballard last month.
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“These clusters do not appear related to each other,” according to a public health notice posted Wednesday.
An investigation on Monday revealed other factors that could have contributed to the outbreak at Memo’s, 4743 University Way N.E. Those included improper cooling, cold-holding, reheating of potentially hazardous food and the potential for cross-contamination. Because the violations were corrected on site, and there was not an ongoing risk, the restaurant was not closed. Inspectors will return in 14 days to ensure that the site remains safe.
A King County resident ate at the restaurant on Aug. 18 and Aug. 24, while another Washington resident ate there on Aug. 24. Health officials received the first report on Aug. 31.
Since 2010, the restaurant has received nine unsatisfactory inspection reviews, according to public-health records. Most involved improper temperature control.
The Matador, at 2221 N.W. Market St., remains closed, a spokeswoman said. It was shuttered on Sept. 9 following reports of five Shiga toxin-producing E. coli O157: H7 cases. Three people were hospitalized; a 16-year-old Seattle girl developed a dangerous kidney infection called hemolytic uremic syndrome.
Additional cases linked to the same strain were reported in five other people, including two in Washington and one each in Colorado, Idaho and New York, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One out-of-state victim ate at the Matador in Ballard, and appears linked, but the other cases are still being investigated.
It’s possible that the problem in multiple states was caused by a common vendor, health officials said.
Shiga toxins are poisons produced by some types of E. coli bacteria that make people sick. STEC poisoning can be dangerous, especially for children and those with weakened immune systems. Symptoms include diarrhea, including bloody diarrhea and stomach cramps, with low or no fever. Symptoms typically appear within three to four days after exposure to contaminated food or other sources.
People who ate at either restaurant and developed bloody diarrhea within 10 days should consult a health care provider to see if testing is necessary.