TACOMA, Wash. — The Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department said Wednesday it is investigating a second suspected norovirus outbreak at an El Toro restaurant — this one in University Place.
The department was already investigating a suspected norovirus outbreak at a Tacoma location, where the number of ill customers has grown to 232 as of Wednesday.
On Wednesday, the Health Department closed the restaurant’s University Place location, 3820 Bridgeport Way West. for at least 24 hours or until thoroughly cleaned and sanitized.
“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 department said.
It added that customers got sick after they ate at El Toro’s University Place restaurant on Jan. 6.
“They experienced symptoms, which include vomiting and diarrhea, 24-36 hours after eating. Their symptoms lasted one to two days. We suspect norovirus to be the pathogen based on the symptoms,” the department said.
The department said it’s unclear if this outbreak is connected to its ongoing norovirus investigation at El Toro’s Tacoma restaurant in the Westgate neighborhood, 5716 N. 26th St.
“Someone exposed to norovirus can spread it 24 hours before showing symptoms,” said Katie Lott, the department’s food safety program manager. “That’s why preventing bare hand contact with food is so important,” Lott said.
El Toro Restaurants issued the following statement 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.
Ruben Arias Jr., Executive Manager, El Toro Restaurants