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Health officials close Brownsville taqueria where dozens sickened

February 1, 2019

Cameron County Public Health officials are working to determine what caused approximately 30 people to suffer from nausea, vomiting and diarrhea after eating at El Rey De Taco Wednesday night.

Cameron County Health Administrator Esmeralda Guajardo said her staff and medical officials at hospitals and private medical providers are working to identify the source of what caused people to become ill.

Right now, they are working to identify what caused all those people to become sick, Guajardo said, adding that there is a lot of work that goes into identification.

"In all probability it is food poisoning," Guajardo said.

Guajardo said Cameron County Public Health’s role in the investigation is to identify the source, determine exposure period, create a treatment plan and contain the problem.

"It’s important for people to understand that it just takes time and we don’t want to create a panic," Guajardo said. "People need to seek medical help if they are feeling sick."

Once officials determine the source of what made people sick, Guajardo will send out a press release with details.

"The public has to be patient," she said.

While food poisoning is commonly investigated by Cameron County Public Health, Guajardo said it has been a while since she has seen a case where a large number of people exhibited symptoms of food poisoning after eating at a single restaurant.

"We contain a lot of these situations very often that people don’t know about because it’s usually smaller numbers," Guajardo said. "Larger numbers are a little different."

A Brownsville Public Health Department notice outside El Rey De Taco said the restaurant is to remain closed until further notice.

"Effective immediately, this establishment is to remain closed until further notice. No entry is permitted to anyone, unless accompanied by health authority," the notice states.

Guajardo referred questions about regulations regarding food safety and possible penalties for violations to the City of Brownsville, which did not respond to questions, but did provide a statement saying it is assisting the Cameron County Health Department.

"The Brownsville Public Health Department is assisting the Cameron County Public Health Department in their investigation of the restaurant which has been closed pending the findings of the investigation," the City of Brownsville said in a statement.

Brownsville Police Department officers could also be seen outside the restaurant Thursday morning.

Brownsville Police Department Spokeswoman Melissa Gonzalez said hospital staff called authorities Wednesday night after numerous people arrived complaining of the symptoms of food poisoning after eating at the restaurant.

"Sometimes, people don’t know who to call so they’ll just call the PD and we are first responders so we’ll respond to a call for service, investigate and take it from there," Gonzalez said. "And if it’s something we feel that needs to be documented, we’ll go ahead and document it."

So police arrived at El Rey De Taco to ask questions about its patrons who were showing up sick at the hospital.

"That’s when I guess the business owner was like, ‘Let me go ahead and close it down,’" Gonzalez said.

mreagan@brownsvilleherald.com

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