More than 100 people have been sickened with a lingering food borne illness, cyclosporiasis, in a multi-state outbreak that is believed to be related to contaminated fruit and vegetables.
The cyclosporiasis outbreak sickened at least 71 people in Iowa and at least another 35 in Nebraska, according to CBS News. Officials believe the two outbreaks are likely related.
People can remain ill with cyclosporiasis, which is caused by the rare cyclospora parasite, for about two months. The food borne illness causes symptoms such as watery diarrhea, appetite and weight loss, cramps, bloating, gas, nausea, and fatigue. The disease can also lead to vomiting and low-grade fever in some cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). CBS News points out that the diarrhea could last nearly 60 days without treatment, which is typically the combination antibiotic trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole.
The Iowa Department of Public Health said that it has received at least 71 reports of the infection at last count, with illnesses beginning mid-June. People are reporting that they are either still ill or suffering from relapses, according to CBS News.
In Nebraska, another 35 people were sickened by cyclosporiasis, CBS affiliate KOLN-TV reported. Nebraska epidemiologist Dr. Thomas Safranek told the Associated Press (AP) that fresh vegetables are the likely culprit; however, the investigation continues.
Prior to 1996, cyclospora illnesses were only reported in people who traveled to developing countries or who suffered from weakened immune systems, according to the Mayo Clinic, CBS News reported. Even then, the cases were infrequent. Since 1995, lettuce, fresh basil, and imported raspberries have been blamed in North American cyclosporiasis outbreaks, the Mayo Clinic reports, noting that scrupulous washing cannot always eliminate the parasite.
Fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed, even fruit that has been peeled, prior to eating. Hands should be washed often and completely with hot water, most especially after using the bathroom, changing diapers, playing with or cleaning up after or working with animals, and after gardening, HumanIllness warns.
Hands should also be washed before eating and unfiltered water from water sources such as lakes or rivers, should be avoided, even sparkling springs. Do not swallow water when swimming in lakes, rivers, swimming pools and spas; chlorine might not be sufficient to kill the parasites, according to HumanIllness.
Intestinal infections are among the most common sickness worldwide, notes HumanIllness. Annually, some 48 million Americans—about one in six people—are sickened due to consumption of contaminated food according to CBS News.