Employee at Mexican Seafood Restaurant Tests Positive For Shigella, But Not Cause of Outbreak: County

A single "food handler" at a Mexican seafood restaurant in San Jose has tested positive for the Shigella bacteria, the Santa Clara County health department reported Thursday, but is not the cause of the outbreak.

Allison Thrash, the county's health officer, said investigators still don't know who caused the bacteria to spread to about 200 people in six counties. 

But the employee of Mariscos San Juan No. 3 on N. 4th Street is the only person who tested positive for the foodborne illness that causes diarrhea and vomiting, Thrash said. In fact, that person ate food at the restaurant and got sick after that.

Dr. George Han,  Santa Clara County’s deputy health officer, said it's likely the source behind the outbreak will remain a mystery.

Of the 190 people who reported feeling ill from the Shigella bacteria, 151 are Santa Clara County residents and the rest are from San Mateo, Alameda, Santa Cruz, Marin and Merced counties.The bacteria is highly contagious and often spreads when someone comes in contact with tainted fecal matter. Proper hand washing, health officials say, is the best way to prevent the illness from spreading.

At least a dozen people went to the ICU following eating a meal at the restaurant on Oct. 16 and 17. Three have filed lawsuits.

The restaurant remains closed. However the owner, who has declined media requests, is working with investigators, Thrash said, to take the necessary steps to reopen.

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