BOSTON (AP) — Boston College says more than 120 students have now reported gastrointestinal illnesses, and nearly all are students who ate at a Chipotle restaurant near campus.
Dr. Thomas Nary, director of university health services, announced Wednesday that the symptoms are consistent with norovirus.
A spokeswoman for the Boston Public Health Commission said the illnesses were likely caused by norovirus, but final test results aren't expected for a couple of days.
The illnesses led to the temporary closure of the restaurant in the city's Cleveland Circle neighborhood. City officials said a restaurant employee was sick during a shift last week.
A spokesman for Denver-based Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. has said the Boston College illnesses are likely an isolated case of norovirus and unrelated to the E. coli cases that have turned up in nine states.
According to a report from the Boston Inspectional Services department, which is responsible for inspecting the city's restaurants, an employee at the Chipotle restaurant in Cleveland Circle was sick while working a shift Thursday.
William Christopher, the department's commissioner, said it was not immediately known if management at Chipotle was aware of the employee's symptoms. He said the restaurant's permit to operate has been suspended by the city and that a disinfection process has begun.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, infected workers cause about 70 percent of reported norovirus outbreaks from contaminated food. Each year, norovirus causes 19 million to 21 million illnesses.
The virus can spread from an infected person, contaminated food or water, or by touching contaminated surfaces, the agency says. It is very contagious and can spread quickly in places such as daycare centers and cruise ships.
Common symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, nausea and stomach pain.
If tests confirm that the Boston illnesses are the result of norovirus, it would support Chipotle's previous statement that whatever ingredient that was likely to blame for the E. coli is out of its restaurants by now.