San Jose

At Least 80 Suspected Cases of Shigella in San Jose: Health Dept.

At least 80 people have now become violently ill in connection with a bacterial outbreak at a San Jose restaurant, public health officials said Tuesday.

Officials said the number of Shigella cases may grow because the bacteria is highly contagious.

"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."

Of the 80 cases associated with the outbreak at the restaurant, 15 have been confirmed as Shigella, according to the Santa Clara County Health Department. Furthermore, 12 of those who fell ill have been taken to the intensive care units of local hospitals, according to the health department.

The new numbers are up from the 30 reported sick on Monday.

Shigella is an intestinal infection caused by the Shigella bacteria, which causes fever, abdominal pain and diarrhea, Cody said.

All those who were sickened said they ate at Mariscos San Juan restaurant at 205 N. Fourth Street in downtown San Jose on Friday or Saturday, according to authorities. Santa Clara County food inspection reports show the seafood restaurant had its permit suspended on Sunday.

Cody said Tuesday she had no idea just how many people ate there and she implored anyone who felt ill to contact the health department. She also said she didn't know at this point just how the bacteria spread, although she did acknowledge earlier that it can be spread by not properly hand washing.

The bacteria 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.

One person who was sickened, Andres Guera, ate lunch at Mariscos San Juan No. 3 on Friday. Guera said the pain began soon afterward.

"My fever was at 104 – that's when vomiting started," said Guera, who was still recovering late Monday after spending the weekend at Kaiser Permanente Hospital's intensive care unit in Santa Clara. "The first thing they did was put seven liters of fluid in me."

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 has been linked to the Shigellosis outbreak.

Eighty-one area restaurants have had their permits suspended within the last six months because of heath code violations ranging from improper sewage disposal, temperature control and employee record keeping, online county records show.

For a list of all Santa Clara County restaurant food inspection reports, click here. To report a case of Shigella, click here or call 408-885-4214.

NBC Bay Area's Kristofer Noceda and Terry McSweeney contributed to this report.

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