At least 80 sickened by bacterial disease from SJ restaurant

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Santa Clara County Health officials said at least 80 people have gotten sick after eating at a Mexican restaurant in downtown San Jose.

Health officials worry more people may have the bacterial disease known as Shigella and not even know it.

Mariscos San Juan Restaurant is said to be the source of the illness.

"This was the first time she's ever gone," said Barry Ingram whose daughter got sick. "She said she wanted to try something different."

Their 31-year-old daughter ate a shrimp cocktail at the Mariscos San Juan Restaurant for lunch Friday. Twelve hours later, she was rushed to Kaiser Santa Clara and has spent three days in the hospital.

"We were so concerned she was shaking so hard," said Ingram. "She said she had the chills and the diarrhea wouldn't stop."

Their daughter is one of 80 people suspected to have Shigella. It's a highly contagious bacteria that's found in an infected person's feces and is spread after that person doesn't wash their hands after using the restroom.

Symptoms include diarrhea, fever and abdominal pain not to mention irregular bowel movements that can last for months.

Several customers posted photos and reviews on the restaurant's Yelp page claiming their loved ones were sickened by the food at that restaurant on those days.

The Santa Clara County Health Department said those sickened have all been linked to the downtown location and ate a variety of food Friday and Saturday. An investigation is underway to determine the source.

"The most important prevention measure you can take if you have Shigella or any illness involving diarrhea is meticulous hand washing," said Santa Clara County Public Health Officer Dr. Sara Cody.

"Upon review of some of the previous violations, we did see they had a major violation for cooling," said Michael Balliet of the Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health.

According to county's "Dine Out" web site, employee food handler cards were also not readily available when the restaurant was last inspected in August, resulting in an "89" out of 100 passing grade. Those violations have been corrected.

Another location received a "49" score last month. Among the issues reported were food not in good condition.

"No she won't go back to that restaurant," said Ingram. "At this point I'm glad the restaurant is closed down."

County Health officials anticipate this location will be closed for the next few days. Repeated attempts by KTVU to contact the owner of this chain restaurant were unsuccessful.

The Santa Clara County Department of Public Health says will provide updates on this outbreak on their website.

For additional information about Shigella visit the CDC website.