Second Tacoma-area restaurant closed for suspected norovirus outbreak

An electron micrograph of human norovirus.

The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has closed a second El Toro Mexican Restaurant because of a suspected norovirus outbreak.

The University Place restaurant at 3820 Bridgeport Way W. will be closed for at least 24 hours while the health department investigates the illness reports and the restaurant can sanitize.

Five to 10 people were sick from the University Place location, according to the Health Department.

The closure came two days after El Toro's Westgate neighborhood location closed due to a suspected norovirus outbreak. The Health Department said 232 people were sickened, five employees were also sick and 10 people were hospitalized.

It’s not known whether the two suspected outbreaks are connected.

More than 100 reports of illness surfaced after diners ate at the Westgate El Toro from Dec. 31-Jan. 8. The restaurant at 5716 N. 26th St. sanitized and reopened Tuesday.

While investigating the first outbreak, health department officials received two complaints of illness, but those complaints were related to the University Place El Toro, not the Westgate location.

A press release from the health department noted, “We received two reports on Jan. 8 from customers in separate households who say they got ill after dining at the University Place location. Each report has multiple cases. We are still confirming the total and gathering information about new cases.”

The diners had eaten at the restaurant Saturday (Jan. 6.)

The symptoms reported by the diners include vomiting and diarrhea 24 to 36 hours after dining at the restaurant. The symptoms are consistent with norovirus, a highly contagious illness that can be passed through human contact, but also through shellfish.

Those exposed to norovirus might take up to 24 hours to display symptoms, said Katie Lott, food safety program manager with the health department.

Ill workers are permitted to return to work 48 hours after they’ve recovered from norovirus symptoms.

El Toro released this statement on Wednesday night:

The well being of our guests has been our highest priority since our restaurant's founding in 1979.

Unfortunately, Norovirus is hitting our area very hard and it found its way into our doors. According to the health department, the virus can be introduced by people into any closed public environment like schools, nursing homes, offices and restaurants.

When we were informed of the outbreak in one of our restaurants, we immediately took corrective action to deep clean our establishment from top to bottom, sanitizing down to the last utensil. We have also alerted our other locations with instructions on how to prevent further propagation of the virus, as well as the importance of employees not coming to work if ill.

We understand how troubling this news is to our loyal guests. Because of that, we are taking precautionary measures at each restaurant (even though there is no evidence that the virus is present), including a voluntary early closing to deep clean and sanitize, in order to further protect our guests.

We take this opportunity to apologize to our guests that became ill after dining with us. We would hope to earn your trust and enjoy the opportunity of serving you again.

Sue Kidd: 253-597-8270@tntdiner

KIRO 7 contributed to this report. 

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