Saturday, October 25, 2014 Headlines & Global News

Parasite Infects Over 250 People In The Midwest; Consumers Urged To Soak And Scrub Produce

By Rebekah Marcarelli r.marcarelli@hngn.com | Jul 23, 2013 04:58 PM EDT

Cyclospora
Results of epifluorescence microscopy of Cyclospora using a 330–380 nm ultraviolet excitation filter. (Photo : CDC)

Over 250 cases of a parasite called Cyclospora have been reported in the U.S., hospitalizing 10 people

Cyclospora cases have been reported in "Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Wisconsin, Georgia and Connecticut.  Illinois and Kansas also reported a case that may have been acquired in one of the already infected states, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported.

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The parasite is "composed of one cell, too small to be seen without a microscope. This parasite causes an intestinal infection called cyclosporiasis."

It is spread through consuming something that was contaminated with infected feces.

So far, no specific food products have been linked to the outbreak.

Fresh foods are usually responsible for Cyclospora infections. Raspberries carried the parasite in the 1996 and 1997 outbreaks that infected over 2,000 people. Fresh herbs and lettuce are also considered high-risk, NBC News reported.

"Cyclospora infects the small intestine (bowel) and usually causes watery diarrhea, with frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements. Other common symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps/pain, bloating, increased gas, nausea, and fatigue. Vomiting, body aches, headache, fever, and other flu-like symptoms may be noted," the CDC stated. Some people never experience any symptoms.

The CDC recommends a combination of two drugs to treat the parasite, rest and plenty of fluids is also encouraged.

Iowa authorities have urged people to wash their fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consuming, USA Today reported.

"We're not just talking about running them under some water and giving them a little pat," Barbara Chadwick, clinical services manager for the Linn County Health Department, said. "It's about soaking them and giving them a good scrubbing."

While consumers should use great caution when handling produce, officials aren't sure if the infected items are still on shelves or have already passed through the market, NBC reported.

"What we don't know yet is whether the transmission or spread of the parasite is ongoing," Dr. Barbara Herwaldt, a medical epidemiologist with the CDC's division of parasitic diseases and malaria centers, said, 

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