UPDATED CONTENT July 7 — This story has been updated to include reports that the number of E. coli victims in the outbreak has doubled to 50, up from 25. A Chicago woman who had to spend three nights in a hospital after eating food from Carbon Live Fire Mexican Grill in Bridgeport has filed a civil suit against the restaurant, which is voluntarily closed because of an E. coli outbreak. Melissa Andrews is seeking an unspecified amount in excess of $30,000 — the minimum amount required to establish jurisdiction in the Law Division of Cook County Circuit Court.
The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) Thursday said there are now 50 residents who’ve been identified as contracting STEC related to this outbreak. This restaurant remains closed as does a second Carbon location at 810 Marshfield. CDPH says anyone who has eaten at Carbon and is suffering from symptoms to see a medical provider. Individuals may also contact CDPH directly at firstname.lastname@example.org .
The first Carbon restaurant closed last week as local officials launched an outbreak investigation. Carbón Live Fire had been scheduled to participate in the Taste of Chicago, which started Tuesday and runs through Sunday, but pulled out of the event. According to her civil complaint, Andrews ordered three chicken tacos, chips and salsa from the restaurant on June 22. She became ill with symptoms of E. coli infection four days later. On June 28 her symptoms of bloody stools and abdominal cramping were so severe that she went to an urgent care center. Staff there told her to go to a hospital for a CT scan of her appendix, according to her complaint. The scan showed significant inflammation in her colon and some inflammation in her appendix, according to court documents. She was admitted for observation, but several surgeons concluded she did not need to have her appendix removed. Andrews was released July 1 when she was able to tolerate solid food, according to the complaint, which says she “continues to slowly recover.” The menu items responsible for the outbreak have not yet been identified and the investigation is ongoing, according to the city health department. Health officials continue to be onsite at the 300 W. 26th Street location and are also interviewing patients to rule out other possible exposures. Health officials also issued an alert to area physicians about the outbreak, providing medical guidance. “Medical providers who suspect STEC (Shiga toxin-producing E. coli) should submit specimens for testing. Antibiotics and anti-diarrheal medicines should not be used to treat STEC as they may worsen symptoms. Medical experts instead encourage supportive medical care, including intravenous fluids, where necessary,” according to the alert. Editor’s note: Melissa Andrews is represented in part by Marler Clark LLP of Seattle. Partner Bill Marler is publisher of Food Safety News. (To sign up for a free subscription to Food Safety News, click here.)