Tijuana Tacos in Lakewood reopened Thursday, a day after the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department closed the restaurant to investigate a suspected norovirus outbreak.
Restaurant workers cleaned and sanitized the restaurant and followed other protocols established by the health department. The restaurant’s food truck also was cleared to reopen. No diners have reported becoming ill after eating at the taco truck.
The first reports of ill diners came in Wednesday. Five diners from two households told the health department they dined at the Mexican fast food restaurant at 1005 Bristol Ave. SW in Lakewood on Feb. 22. They became ill afterward.
Since then, 33 more ill diners have reported norovirus-like symptoms to the health department, bringing the total number of ill diners to 38. The diners said they ate at Tijuana Tacos on Feb. 22 and reported their illness symptoms began Feb. 23.
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The health department found in its investigation that two employees also had norovirus symptoms on Feb. 23. They both worked Feb. 22, but did not have symptoms until the day after they worked. The employees will be tested for norovirus.
Kelli Van Scyoc-Gomez, a co-owner of the restaurant, said employees followed health department protocols and threw away food, and cleaned and sanitized. “We have been told we are clear and OK to open, but have had many cancellations for events that have been in the books. It makes me sad and I hope the public can trust that after 50 years in business, we take safety and cleanliness very seriously,” she said.
The closure was the second for this week. California Tacos closed Tuesday on suspicion of norovirus. The two closures are unrelated, the health department said, but they continue to investigate.
California Tacos, at 14818 Union Ave. SW, Lakewood, had initial reports of three diners who fell ill after eating at the restaurant last week, but that number has increased. A total of 17 people have reported illness after they ate at that restaurant last week.
Those who ate at either restaurant recently and became ill with norovirus-like symptoms should contact the health department at firstname.lastname@example.org, report the illness online at tpchd.org, or call 253-798-4712.
Norovirus outbreaks receive attention from the health department to prevent secondary infections that result from an outbreak. After somebody becomes ill, it is easy to spread the virus to other members of the same household.
The health department advises to sanitize and clean a home after a family member suffers norovirus-like symptoms.
Ridding a home or restaurant of the virus is tricky because norovirus is a pesky pathogen that lives on surfaces for several days, is easily spread and highly contagious. The health department recommends using a bleach solution of 1 ⅔ cups of bleach to one gallon of water and to clean surfaces with the solution, allowing at least a minute of contact time.
The symptoms of norovirus can appear within hours or up to a few days after coming into contact with the pathogen.