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Dysentery Outbreak Complaints Mount Up

CHICAGO (CN) - Seventy-four people have filed lawsuits claiming they got Shigella infection, also known as dysentery, from a suburban Subway sandwich outlet.

In one of 41 complaints filed this week in DuPage County Court, Tania Lesus sued Neel Subway dba Subway Restaurant, its owner Dahyabhai Patel, and Subway's parent company, Doctor's Associates.

Patel's Subway outlet is in Lombard, a western suburb of Chicago. Seventy-three other people have filed lawsuits against the franchise.

Lesus's complaint states: "Tania Lesus purchased and consumed a tuna sub sandwich from defendant's Subway restaurant on February 25, 2010. On or about the next day ... Tania developed severe gastrointestinal illness as a direct and proximate result of consuming Shigella-contaminated food at defendant's Subway restaurant on February 25, 2010. As a result, of her Shigella infection, Tania suffered significant physical injury and economic loss."

Shigella is the bacterium that causes dysentery, an inflammatory disease of the colon which results in severe diarrhea, and is spread by oral ingestion of contaminated feces.

""Shigella is like salmonella on steroids," Lesus's attorney Gary Newland told Courthouse News in an interview. "Virtually the same symptoms, but more serious."

The DuPage County Health Department (DCHD) received numerous reports of Neel Subway customers being infected with Shigella in February 2010. The restaurant was temporarily shut down on March 1, 2010.

Lesus says that "ultimately DCHD and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) ... counted 328 cases of Shigella infection and related illness associated with the consumption of food prepared at the defendant's Subway restaurant.

"Investigators from DCHD and IDPH also found that two employees of the defendant's Subway restaurant tested positive for the same strain of Shigella that caused the outbreak. These individual had been ill with gastrointestinal symptoms related to their Shigella infections prior to the outbreak, and poor hygienic practices by these employees, and generally, at the defendant's Subway restaurant caused widespread contamination of patrons' food."

Newland said in the interview: "We believe that standards in the food service industry need to be improved. When there's a situation like this it's only because proper hygiene doesn't take place. There's no reason that something like this should happen if health and safety code is being followed."

Lesus seeks damages for product liability, negligence, and breach of warranty. "We're seeking compensation for pain and suffering, loss of wages, and loss of life," Newland said.

Newland works with Newland & Newland, of Arlington Heights.

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