Shigella cases climb to 141 sickened

A San Jose restaurant linked with a contagious diarroheal disease has made 141 people sick in four counties, public health officials said Friday.

Many of the ill ate at Mariscos San Juan restaurant #3, a Mexican seafood eatery at 205 N. Fourth St. last Friday or Saturday, Santa Clara County public health officials said.

The total number includes to 49 people found with Shigella, a bacterial illness, which has spread to 35 Santa Clara County residents and 14 outside of the county, public health officials said.

Eight adults and a child in Alameda County caught the disease, three of whom were hospitalized, health spokeswoman Sherri Willis said.

San Mateo County has three confirmed cases of Shigella, county public health spokeswoman Amy Brooks said.

Santa Cruz County confirmed two people were found with Shigella and three suspected cases, spokeswoman Jessica Randolph said.

Of the 141 cases, 118 were in Santa Clara County and 23 were in other counties.

Santa Clara County public health officials expect to receive laboratory results taken from food handlers of the restaurant next week.

Some people caught the infection through a secondhand source, such as someone who made contact with a restaurant patron who became ill, Santa Clara County Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody said.

Those who are sick are advised to carefully wash their hands to prevent spreading the illness, public health officials said.

The symptoms of Shigella can last for one to two days and include diarrhea that is sometimes bloody, a fever and abdominal pain, public health officials said.

People can experience symptoms for five to seven days and make a full recovery, but it can take months before their bowel habits return to normal, public health officials said.

Michael Balliet, director of the consumer protection division at the department Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health, said the restaurant has been closed since Sunday to allow food inspectors to investigate and the business owners have been cooperative.

An inspection report dated Sunday showed partially cooked food including shrimp broth and octopus were not properly cooled to 41 degrees before they were placed in refrigerator inserts, which presented a major risk.

The report called for the food preparation surface to be sanitized.

Another inspection report on Aug. 5 showed the restaurant did not have food handler cards available but met requirements for storing food at appropriate temperatures; proper eating, drinking and tasting at the food preparation area; and adequate hand-washing facilities.

Two San Jose men with Shigella filed separate lawsuits Wednesday in Santa Clara County Superior Court against the restaurant owners claiming negligence in food preparation and employee supervision, among other allegations.