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Norovirus has sickened 80 Boston College students who ate at a nearby Chipotle restaurant, state health officials said Tuesday.
"Initial testing conducted by the State Public Health has shown the presence of norovirus," the health department said in a statement.
Although many of the students said they feared they’d been struck with the same E. coli bacteria that made 52 people in nine states sick this fall after eating at Chipotle restaurants, experts said the pattern of illness didn't look like E. coli.
“Health officials in Boston believe this is likely a norovirus, which seems consistent with the pattern, in our estimation,” Chipotle spokesman Chris Arnold told NBC News.
City health officials ordered the outlet closed after an inspection showed the cooked chicken used to make burritos, tacos and other dishes was being kept at too low a temperature, an employee worked while showing signs of illness and because of the reports of possible foodborne illness.
Chipotle said it had voluntarily closed the restaurant in the Brighton section of the city.
“All 80 students have confirmed that they ate at the Chipotle Restaurant in Cleveland Circle during the weekend,” Boston College said in a statement.
Norovirus is notorious for causing large outbreaks of sickness and it can be spread by a single sick restaurant worker or one sick patron. Simple handwashing is often not enough to prevent its spread.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it’s still not sure what particular food caused the E. coli outbreak at Chipotle. A separate E. coli outbreak that’s made 19 people sick in seven states was linked to celery sold at Costco, 7-11, King Sooper and other stores.
Symptoms of both illnesses are similar — diarrhea, stomach cramps and fever. But norovirus is far more likely than E. coli to cause vomiting.