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Shigella outbreak linked to San Jose restaurant spreads to other Bay Area counties

The shigella outbreak has spread to three other Bay Area counties after public health officials received additional reports of patients who were infected by the bacterial disease linked to a San Jose seafood restaurant.

Five confirmed cases of shigella were found in Alameda, Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties,  public health officials said Thursday. 

The number of patients who reported symptoms associated with the bacterial infection exceeds 110, county public health officials said. 

Santa Clara County health officials says at least 110 cases of shigella have been reported to the agency. Of the 110 cases, 92 were patients are Santa Clara County residents and the remaining 18 patients live in other counties.

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In Santa Clara County, 24 cases were confirmed to be shigellosis, an infectious diarrheal disease caused by a group of bacteria called shigella.

San Mateo County Health System confirmed Thursday three cases of shigella were linked to the San Jose outbreak. Health officials in Alameda and Santa Cruz counties are investigating suspected cases of shigella.

The outbreak started over the weekend when dozens of people reported feeling severely ill after eating at Mariscos San Juan Restaurant No. 3 in the 200 block of North 4th Street. Many patients who ate at the restaurant Friday or Saturday required hospitalization, and 12 needed intensive-care treatment.

The infectious disease spreads when food or water has been handled by contaminated hands or an infected person.

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Produce contaminated by human sewage or by contaminated flies landing on food can also make people sick, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flies can breed in feces contaminated with shigella.

Patients infected with shigella usually start to feel sick one to two days after they have been exposed. Symptoms of shigella include diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain. The sickness usually lasts between five and seven days, but shigella can be fatal in patients with severe symptoms.

Gregory Meissner -- one of two customers who filed lawsuits against the restaurant after eating there and becoming ill -- said he ordered a ceviche tostada Friday and woke up the next morning feeling sick. He was hospitalized until Sunday. 

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The restaurant has remained closed as health officials investigate the outbreak.

Santa Clara County public health officials said Wednesday that they were still receiving reports of shigella cases from healthcare providers. Health investigators were interviewing and testing the restaurant’s food handlers.

“People with diarrhea -- even mild -- must not work, especially food service workers, healthcare providers, and childcare workers,” the health department said. “Proper and frequent hand washing is very important in preventing continued spread.”

For breaking news in California, follow VeronicaRochaLA on Twitter.

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