Patrick Quade, the website’s founder, said dozens of Chipotle customers reported illnesses following news of the norovirus outbreak. He attributed the influx of reports partly to the widespread media coverage.
“This is normal [and has] happened with all the other public health confirmed outbreaks that we caught,” Quade said.
There is no screening process for the website and anyone can anonymously report illnesses. However, many customers posted pictures of their Chipotle receipts on social media to prove they ate there.
Norovirus is a small virus that can be extremely contagious in humans. People acquire the virus by ingesting material contaminated with small amounts of infected feces or fluids. Signs and symptoms of norovirus include:
- Abdominal pain or cramps
- Watery or loose diarrhea
- Low-grade fever
- Muscle pain
Noroviruses cause between 19 million and 21 million cases of acute gastroenteritis in the U.S. each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Norovirus was originally referred to as the “Norwalk virus,” after the town of Norwalk, Ohio, where the first confirmed outbreak was recorded in 1972.
Reports also surfaced that rodents were spotted earlier this week at a Chipotle restaurant in Dallas. One customer told NBC DFW her lunch was “ruined by rodents falling from the ceiling.”
Diners captured video footage of rats crawling around the floor and climbing up the wall. A Chipotle spokesperson issued the following statement regarding the incident:
“We learned yesterday that mice got into a restaurant and we immediately contacted professionals who identified a small structural gap in the building as the likely access point,” the statement read. “We’re having it repaired. Additionally, we reached out to the customer to make things right. This is an extremely isolated and rare incident and certainly not anything we’d ever want our customers to encounter.”
Chipotle’s stock fell more than 3% following reports of the outbreak, according to CNBC. The news comes at the wrong time for Chipotle, as the company scrambles to recover from a devastating string of food poisoning epidemics in 2015 that nearly crushed the company’s once near sterling reputation.