Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department has identified new local cases of norovirus, bringing the total number from the outbreak at two area El Toro Restaurants to 434.
The Tacoma location, 5716 N. 26th St., has 423 cases. The restaurant in University Place, 3820 Bridgeport Way W., has 11.
Both restaurants closed for a thorough cleaning and sanitizing, a Health Department requirement for outbreaks like this. Reports from people who say they got sick after dining at the restaurants have slowed down.
“Norovirus is highly contagious and is more common in cold weather months,” said Katie Lott, food and community safety program manager. “The best thing people can do to protect themselves and keep the virus from spreading is wash their hands frequently and stay home when they’re sick,” she said.
The outbreak started at the restaurant in Tacoma’s Westgate neighborhood. The Health Department closed the restaurant Jan. 8 after receiving the first reports of illness. The Department worked with the restaurant to ensure it was thoroughly cleaned and sanitized before it reopened Jan. 9. On Jan. 11, the Department received confirmation from the state’s Public Health Laboratories that a customer who ate at the Tacoma restaurant during the onset period tested positive for norovirus.
On Jan. 10, the Health Department received illness reports from diners who ate at the El Toro Restaurant in University Place. The restaurant followed the same protocol and closed for cleaning and sanitizing. It reopened on Jan. 11.
Two staff members at the Tacoma location worked while ill during the time customers dined and later got sick. It’s still unclear if the outbreaks at the two locations are connected.
“Because of the nature of norovirus outbreaks, we may never know the exact affected items that caused illness,” Lott said. “All the cases have dining at the El Toro Restaurants in common,” she said.