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When Ashley Arellano entered a Portland-area Chipotle on October 17, she ordered her usual: a rice bowl with black beans, pork, cheese, sour cream and corn.
Four days later, she became violently ill. She says she felt pain in her kidney area and, as time progressed, became increasingly light-headed.
“I was terrified that I was going to go to bed and not wake up,” Arellano told NBC News.
She left work early and rushed herself to the emergency room at a local hospital, where doctors suspected kidney stones or a possible urinary tract infection.
Roughly 48 hours later, test results showed that Arellano had tested positive for E. coli.
“My mouth dropped,” said Arellano.
Arellano, 28, is one of an estimated 22 people — eight of whom have been hospitalized — in Washington State and Oregon who have reported sick from eating at Chipotle in recent weeks.
Over the weekend, Chipotle voluntarily closed all 43 of its locations in both states. With no cause for the outbreak yet identified, Chipotle says that up to eight kitchens may be contaminated.
“We immediately closed all the restaurants in the area out of an abundance of caution, even though the vast majority of these restaurants have no reported problems,” the company said in a statement.
Investigators warn that the number of E.coli cases could spike in the coming days as more people report symptoms. As of now, there are 19 cases in Washington State and three in Oregon, according to Marisa D’Angeli, medical epidemiologist with the Washington State Department of Health.
D’Angeli said that the state’s health agency — together with the Oregon Public Health Authority — is investigating the cluster of E.coli infections.
"We believe that a food item is probably the cause of these infections,” said D’Angeli. “But we don’t know at this time what food item that is."
For her part, Arellano will return to work on Tuesday – nearly two weeks after falling ill. She says that she has not been contacted by Chipotle and told NBC News that she has been unsuccessful in her own efforts to reach company headquarters.
The episode, she says, has changed her perceptions of the eatery — which markets itself as offering fresh, healthy ingredients — and admits that she has no plans to return to eat there in the near future.
“I just wanted to bring awareness to the problem,” said Arellano. “And I feel that they [Chipotle] have not even acknowledged my case, which isn’t right.”