At least 321 people in 14 states and New York City have become infected with Cyclospora, a parasite that can contaminate produce and cause gastrointestinal symptoms in people who consume it. At least 18 people have been hospitalized since the first cases were reported in mid-June. No deaths have been reported.
Officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have yet to identify the source of the outbreak, although previous outbreaks have been linked to produce. The parasite is typically found in the tropics and not indigenous to the United States, which suggests the culprit could be produce imported from another country. The likely suspects include raspberries, lettuce, snow peas and basil.
Investigators say there could be more than one source, and that the case counts may include some international travel-associated cases included in the totals.
Cyclospora causes flu-like symptoms including diarrhea, nausea, dehydration, fatigue, and weight loss. Symptoms usually appear a week after exposure and if left untreated can linger for a month or more. The parasite cannot be passed from person-to-person, only by eating infected foods. The infection is diagnosed by doctors who can find either the microscopic parasite or its eggs in a stool sample.
To date, the number of cases in each area is as follows: Iowa (138), Texas (71), Nebraska (70), Florida (23), New York City (4), Wisconsin (3), Georgia (3), Missouri (2), and one each in Arkansas, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey and Ohio.
Consumers are advised to thoroughly wash their hands after handling produce, and to scrub their fruits and vegetables before eating them.