Health official in Texas investigating a rising number of Cyclospora parasite infections in the state are focusing on fresh produce as the possible source.
On Aug. 1, the Texas Department of State Health Services had reports of 55 Cyclospora cases in the state. By Thursday, the number of infections reported to health authorities rose to 72.
Cyclospora cayetanensis is a parasite composed of one cell, too small to be seen without a microscope. This parasite causes an intestinal infection called cyclosporiasis, and symptoms usually begin two days to two weeks after ingestion of the parasite in contaminated food or water.
The illness causes severe diarrhea that can for last weeks or even months and easily relapses if not treated properly. Additional symptoms include, fatigue, abdominal cramps, bloating, increased gas, nausea, vomiting, fever, and weight loss/anorexia.
Although Cyclospora outbreaks occur in other parts of the U.S., Texas has been especially hit by an increase of infections, which have been traced to produce from Mexico. This is the fourth consecutive summer that Texas has been hit with a Cyclospora outbreak.
“Past outbreaks in the U.S. have been associated with consumption of imported fresh produce, including fresh cilantro, pre-packaged salad mix, raspberries, basil, snow peas, and mesclun lettuce,” the Texas health department reported.
Health officials are urging physicians to report Cyclospora illnesses as quickly as possible, saying that rapid reporting helps identify possible common exposures more quickly, which is essential to preventing additional cases of cyclosporiasis.
Until authorities have identified the source of the outbreak, there is little the public can do to minimize the risk of infection.
“Thorough washing of fresh produce is recommended, but may not eliminate the risk of transmission since Cyclospora can be difficult to wash off all types of produce. Infection is generally not transmitted directly from person-to-person,” the Texas health department reported.