San Diego County

Owner of 4S Ranch restaurant linked to E. coli outbreak hit with second lawsuit; cases jump to 21

As of Monday, 21 people have reported being sickened by the outbreak, county health officials said

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A second lawsuit has been filed against the company that owns a 4S Ranch restaurant recently linked to a number of confirmed or probable cases of E. coli.

The lawsuit, announced Friday, was filed on behalf of Denis Bisson, a San Diego resident who allegedly became ill after eating at Miguel's Cocina, located on Craftsman Way.

"The nature of this outbreak is disturbing. While some of our clients ate chips and guacamole, others, like Mr. Bisson, developed E. coli after eating mushroom, chicken, and shrimp fajitas," according to attorney Ron Simon. "In addition, the victims ate there over 12 days, and that means there was a serious, endemic problem for a prolonged period. The victims were being exposed to a serious pathogen for a much longer period than in most restaurant-based outbreaks."

Since the E. coli outbreak linked to Miguel's was first reported on Oct. 24, total cases have jumped from 15 to 21 as of Monday, according to Fernanda Lopez, Group Communications Officer with the County of San Diego's Health and Human Services Agency.

No new hospitalized have been reported, Lopez said.

The ill people or their families reported eating at the restaurant from Oct. 6-18 and had symptoms from Oct. 13-19. Seven of those cases led to hospitalization with at least one person developing the more severe complication of the infection called hemolytic uremic syndrome, according to a county statement.

"How do you trust eating out anywhere?" Bisson said. "We love sushi, and it's like, well, that's not cooked. And that scares me, quite frankly. You really put your trust in these restaurants to make sure they're following good procedures. And unfortunately, to see a big chain like this have this kind of thing happen and for so long to so many people, it makes you wonder, what's going on? Are there corners being cut? "

The first complaint was filed Thursday on behalf of a woman who was allegedly sickened after eating at the restaurant. According to that complaint, the people who have come down with symptoms include a 14-year-old boy who is "fighting for his life."

The woman who filed Thursday's lawsuit ate at Miguel's on Oct. 12, the complaint states.

She ate chips, rice, and guacamole and drank iced tea, then a few days later began suffering from "extreme abdominal pain, diarrhea and nausea, and noticed a significant amount of blood in her stool," leading her to seek medical treatment on Oct. 17.

Doctors later diagnosed her with Shiga Toxin-producing E. coli, according to the complaint, which states she's since been discharged from the hospital but continues to experience some symptoms.

According to county officials, the food items that were sources of the E. coli bacteria are under investigation and the restaurant is cooperating with the county. Restaurant management voluntarily decided to close the eatery on Oct. 24 until the source can be identified, the county's Health and Human Services Agency said.

Dr. Wilma Wooten, county public health officer, said, "People who visited the restaurant and are feeling ill should see their doctor as soon as possible. We want them to get tested and have the results sent to the local health department. Those most at risk from infection are children, adults 65 and older and people with weakened immune systems."

A manager at Miguel's Cocina declined to comment on the lawsuits when reached by City News Service on Sunday. The restaurant is owned and operated by Brigantine Inc., which did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

County health officials said most people with a Shiga-toxin-producing E. coli infection start feeling sick three to four days after eating or drinking something that contains the bacteria, but illnesses can start anywhere from 1 to 10 days after exposure.

Symptoms vary from person to person and often include severe abdominal cramps, watery or bloody diarrhea and vomiting.

While most people's conditions improve within five to seven days, infections can range in severity from mild to life-threatening.

"The public is asked to contact your health care provider if you have experienced these symptoms on or after Oct. 6, and especially if you have diarrhea that lasts for more than three days or diarrhea that is accompanied by a fever higher than 102 degrees, or blood in the stool, or so much vomiting that you cannot keep liquids down and you pass very little urine," a county statement read.

NBC7's Jackie Crea was at 4S Ranch with more details on the outbreak and investigation.
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