Health officials in Texas remain baffled after 56 cases of cyclosporiasis have been reported since May. The illness is an infection of the intestines caused by ingesting food or water contaminated with the cyclospora parasite and investigators still can’t figure out how people are getting it.
In coordination with local health departments, the Department of State Health Services is investigating the source of the infections. According to a report from KXAN, previous outbreaks were linked to fresh produce, including pre-packaged salad mix, raspberries, and cilantro.
People with cyclosporiasis will experience extreme diarrhea lasting anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Fatigue, loss of appetite, increased gas, nausea, vomiting, and abdominal cramps are also among the multiple symptoms.
The health department says symptoms of the condition can go away for a short period and then come back. A visit to the hospital is highly recommended for anyone suspected of being infected with the cyclospora parasite.
The state’s health department suggests thoroughly washing all fresh produce to avoid a cyclospora parasite infection. However, cleaning is only partially effective as the parasite does not easily wash off. Only cooking kills the microorganism.
Over 300 cases of cyclosporiasis were reported last year in Texas. Investigators fear one common source is behind the current outbreak in the state.
Earlier this week, health officials in Wisconsin reported 123 cases of cyclosporiasis were confirmed in the state. A report from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel says vegetable trays sold at Kwik Trip stores are suspected to be the source of the outbreak. Of the confirmed cases, 84 patients said they consumed Del Monte brand vegetables bought at the stores.
Since the outbreak began, Kwik Trip has removed the vegetable products from store shelves. However, health authorities are concerned other businesses may be selling the vegetable trays but have not been notified of the potential contamination.
Del Monte has issued a recall notice to retailers in several states, including Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, and Indiana. Products affected include vegetable trays ranging from 6 to 28 ounces sold at Kwik Trip, Kwik Star, Sentry, Demond’s, and Peapod stores.
Generally found in developing countries, the cyclospora parasite often enters the U.S. attached to fresh produce. Most cases of cyclosporiasis occur in the summer months. Fortunately, an infection cannot be transmitted person-to-person.