Thursday, July 25, 2013

United States: 285 in Eleven Midwestern States Fall Ill from Single-Cell Intestinal Parasite

According to Reuters, at least 285 people in eleven states have gotten sick by a parasitic infection commonly linked to fresh produce, although the exact cause of the outbreak has yet to be pinpointed, cites the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier today (July 25).

Most of the cyclospora infections have been clustered in the Midwest, with 138 cases reported in Iowa and 70 in neighboring Nebraska. The remainder have been identified in Texas, Georgia, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey and Ohio.

The cause of the illness has not yet been identified, but the parasite is most commonly found in fresh produce, including fruits, vegetables and herbs, grown in tropical and subtropical regions, according to Dr. Barbara Herwaldt, a medical epidemiologist at the CDC in Atlanta.

COMMENT: At least 18 people in three states have required hospitalization from the cyclospora parasite, which causes an intestinal infection called cyclosporiasis. Cyclosporiasis is caused by ingesting food or water containing a one-celled parasite that is too small to be detected without a microscope. Symptoms include watery diarrhea, vomiting and body aches.

The symptoms usually manifest within several days of eating the contaminated food, and include diarrhea, cramps, nausea and fatigue. If not treated, the illness may last from a few days to a month or longer and patients have been known to relapse, the CDC reports.

As a precaution, the CDC urges that people thoroughly wash produce before it is eaten to minimize the chance of infection. The CDC also recommends that anyone with cyclosporiasis-like symptoms seek medical treatment and ask to be tested for the parasite. "The good news is that the infection is easily treatable with readily available antibiotics," Dr. Herwaldt reports.