Chipotle has closed 43 of its restaurants in Oregon and Washington after 22 cases of E. coli surfaced and were reportedly linked to the popular burrito chain.
According to a news release from the Washington State Department of Health, although no deaths have occurred due to the outbreak, eight of the cases have resulted in hospitalization. The statement also said that “local and state health officials in Washington and Oregon are investigating” the outbreak to determine exact source of contamination.
In a statement obtained by PEOPLE from Chipotle’s company spokesperson Chris Arnold, the outbreak has been tied to just six of the company’s restaurants in the area, but they closed a total of 43 restaurants just to be safe.
“The safety and wellbeing of our customers is always our highest priority,” Arnold said. “After being notified by health department officials in the Seattle and Portland, Oregon, areas that they were investigating approximately 20 cases of E. coli, including people who ate at six of our restaurants in those areas, we immediately closed all of our restaurants in the area out of an abundance of caution, even though the vast majority of these restaurants have no reported problems.
“We are working with health department officials to determine the cause of this issue. We offer our deepest sympathies to those who have been affected by this situation.”
Arnold confirmed to NBC News that a total of 43 local Chipotle restaurants have been closed and that the “reopening schedule will be driven by progress of the investigation.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most strains of E. coli are harmless, but others can cause diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illness and pneumonia, among other illnesses.
“Anyone who thinks they may have become ill from eating at a Chipotle restaurant in the past three weeks should consult their healthcare provider,” State Epidemiologist Dr. Scott Lindquist said in the Washington State Department of Health’s statement. “The elderly and very young children are more likely to become severely ill from this kind of E. coli infection.”
• Reporting by MARIA MERCEDES LARA