Texas Health Officials Urge Consumers to Wash Produce During Cyclospora Outbreak

This past week alone, 54 (and counting) confirmed cases of Cyclospora have been reported to the Texas Health Department. 23 of those cases are in the Austin area, with additional suspected cases under investigation.

Cyclospora is an illness caused by a parasite, Cyclospora cayetanensis, and is spread by consuming food or water that’s been contaminated with feces 😦

The CDC says, and I quote, “Avoiding food or water that may have been contaminated with feces is the best way to prevent cyclosporiasis.”  So there you have it folks. Don’t eat food with poo on it.

Obviously, the parasite is microscopic and the contamination isn’t visible to the naked eye or no one would be sick. Thankfully, Cyclospora can be treated using a specific combination of antibiotics.

So, if you experience any of the following symptoms, see a doctor: watery diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, cramping, bloating, increased gas, nausea, and fatigue. Vomiting and fever are less common symptoms, but quite possible.

Based on our recent article, in which a Galveston health official linked dangerous levels of Enterococci bacteria in The Gulf of Mexico to runoff from recently flooded septic tanks and water treatment facilities, it would seem a safe guess that recent flooding could also have something to do with this outbreak.

This is all hypothesis of course, since the Health Department has not yet identified the source of the outbreak. Whatever the case, thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables is an easy and very wise precaution.

The FDA has information on how to select, store, and wash fresh produce. Yes, there is even a video. You can get all that info, right here.

Here’s the original Travis County Health & Human Services press release:

The Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Department is investigating an outbreak of cyclospora, an intestinal illness caused by a microscopic parasite. As of today, the department has 15 confirmed and probable cases and 11 new cases that are currently under investigation. Within the past week, 42 cases of Cyclospora infection have been reported to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Cyclospora is spread by people ingesting something – such as food or water – that was contaminated with feces (stool). Cyclospora needs time (days to weeks) after being passed in a bowel movement to become infectious for another person. Therefore, it is unlikely that Cyclospora is passed directly from one person to another.

In the United States, foodborne outbreaks of cyclosporiasis have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce including berries and leafy greens. At this time, no particular food item has been identified. It is recommended that residents thoroughly wash fresh produce.

The time between becoming infected and becoming sick is usually about 1 week. Cyclospora infects the small intestine (bowel) and usually causes watery diarrhea, with frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements. Other common symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps/pain, bloating, increased gas, nausea, and fatigue. Vomiting, body aches, headache, fever, and other flu-like symptoms may be noted. Some people who are infected with Cyclospora do not have any symptoms.

If not treated, the illness may last from a few days to a month or longer. Symptoms may seem to go away and then return one or more times (relapse). It’s common to feel very tired. If you think you might be infected with Cyclospora see your health care provider.

For more information visit http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/cyclosporiasis/

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