A stomach bug that spread to eight states has left the CDC stumped. The bug, cyclospora, is a one-celled parasite normally seen in tropical regions like Latin America.
But the parasite has sickened close to 300 people in eight US states since last month. The Centers for disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that they still don’t know where the parasite originated.
The parasite causes diarrhea, stomach cramps, and other symptoms normally seen in a stomach bug, reports ABC News. The majority of those infected have been in Iowa, Nebraska, and Texas. However, Wisconsin, Georgia, Connecticut, Illinois, and Kansas have also reported cases.
The illness doesn’t spread from human to human, making it more difficult to determine the source. However, it’s possible the source is food or water, according to Dr. Nicole, Bouvier, an infectious diseases professor in New York City.
And, thankfully, the stomach bug is curable, though it can be serious. Those with an immune deficiency should be extra cautious, according to Bouvier. At least 10 patients have been hospitalized so far, according to The Huffington Post.
While the agency isn’t sure if the cases are linked, it is looking into what food and drink each person had before they fell ill. The CDC is being assisted by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
A cyclospora infection can normally seem like a stomach bug. However, the symptoms hang around for much longer. Residents who have flu-like symptoms are urged to contact their doctor if symptoms last longer than a few days. A doctor will be able to do tests to determine if the parasite is present or not. If so, the doctor will prescribe an antibiotic.
Dr. Bouvier explained that the parasite can be diagnosed by either looking for the parasite or its eggs in a stool sample. She added, “They have to do it with a microscope because it’s tiny. You can’t see it with your naked eye. It’s not like a worm.”
She added that if a whole family has the disease, it was because they either ate or drank the same thing. It’s not yet clear how long it will take for the CDC to discover the cause of the stomach bug-like infection.
[Image by James Gathany (CDC) via Wikimedia Commons]