At least two of the 80 people who fell violently ill in connection with a bacterial outbreak at a San Jose, California, restaurant are considering legal action, according to their attorney.
Fifteen of the 80 cases are confirmed to be Shigella, according to the Santa Clara County Health Department. The intestinal infection causes fever, abdominal pain and diarrhea. Twelve of the people who fell ill have been taken to the intensive care units of local hospitals, the health department said.
"You don't generally see 12 people, a dozen people, in ICU, even in some of the worst foodborne illness cases," said Bill Marler, a food safety lawyer who was contacted by two people looking to sue the restaurant after getting sick. "It's medical bills, it's wages lost, and then obviously you may have long-term complications," he added.
Officials have said the number of Shigella cases may grow because the bacteria is highly contagious. All have been linked to the Mariscos San Juan restaurant on 205 N. Fourth Street in San Jose.
"Right now all of the cases are directly from the restaurant," said Dr. Sara Cody, Santa Clara County Public Health director. "But there is a possibility there could be more who did not eat there because of secondary spread."
Marler's firm also represented 16 families who contracted Shigella in 2000. During that outbreak, more than 100 people fell ill and one died after eating at the Viva Mexico restaurant in Redwood City. The restaurant has since shut down.
In that case, the families split a settlement of $1 million.
Records show Mariscos San Juan in San Jose was cited for a violation two months ago after inspectors found the restaurant did not have the documents to prove employees had proper food handling training.
Santa Clara County food inspection reports show the seafood restaurant had its permit suspended on Sunday.
Shigella can mostly be treated with antibiotics, though some strains are proving resistant, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC tracked 1,633 cases of Shigellosis in California in 2014, up from 949 cases in 2011.
Within the Bay Area, San Francisco had 278 cases of Shigella last year, while Santa Clara and Alameda counties each had 81, the CDC reports.
There are three Mariscos San Juan restaurants in San Jose. The original restaurant on Willow Street had its permit suspended in August, county records show. The second restaurant, on Senter Road, has not been cited this year. The third, located at 205 N. Fourth Street, has been linked to the Shigellosis outbreak.
To report a case of Shigella, click here or call 408-885-4214.
NBC Bay Area's Kris Sanchez, Lisa Fernandez, Marianne Favro and Terry McSweeney contributed to this report.
— Healthy SCC (@HealthySCC) October 20, 2015