Manager didn't enforce sick day policy: Chipotle's explanation for norovirus outbreak

A poorly enforced sick-leave policy caused the recent norovirus outbreak at a Chipotle Mexican Grill in Sterling, Va., according to CNBC.

Loudoun County Health Department received 135 reports of illness related to the outbreak, with two restaurant customers testing positive for norovirus. The outbreak reportedly occurred between July 13 and 16.

During a Tuesday conference call, Chipotle confirmed the source of the outbreak stemmed from poor enforcement of the company's paid sick leave policy, as management allowed an employee to work at the restaurant while sick, according to CNBC. The Sterling Chipotle location temporarily shut down to sanitize the restaurant following the outbreak.

In 2015, Chipotle was associated with multistate outbreaks of E. coli, norovirus and Salmonella.

"If another chain had a norovirus outbreak, I am pretty sure that it would not have gained the national exposure the way that Chipotle had in this last outbreak," Martin Bucknavage, senior food safety extension associate at Pennsylvania State University in State College, told CNBC via email. "So yes, we are hyperaware of their issues. That being said, the entire system of retail operations should have been hyperaware of employee health issues."

Norovirus can cause stomach pain, fever, vomiting and diarrhea. The virus is spread via contact with the fecal matter of infected people, which can contaminate surfaces, food and water. On average, the illness causes 56,000 to 71,000 hospitalizations and 570 to 800 deaths each year, according to the CDC.

More articles on infection control: 
Study: 5% drop in MMR vaccine coverage could triple pediatric measles cases 
CDC helps reduce infection rates in nation with highest HIV prevalence 
7 waterborne pathogens to know

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