July 31, 2013 — Health officials in Iowa and Nebraska have identified pre-packaged bagged salad mixes as a possible source of an outbreak of Cyclospora, a parasite that causes food poisoning and a lengthy gastrointestinal illness. The outbreak has sickened at least 378 people in 15 states, including more than 100 people in Texas.
In a statement (PDF) from the Iowa Department of Public Health, at least 80% of the 143 cases of Cyclospora infections in Iowa have been linked to the same pre-packaged salad mix, which contains iceberg and romaine lettuce, carrots, and red cabbage.
The mixed salad contained no locally-grown produce. Due to the limited shelf-life of bagged salad mixes, officials believe it is no longer on store shelves. The onset of infection occurred in mid-June, which means that the perishable salad mixes have probably already been consumed or discarded.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has launched a website to track the epidemiological investigation. According to the CDC, it is still unclear whether cases associated with bagged salad mixes are part of the same outbreak.
Cyclospora infection (“cyclosporiasis”) causes a watery diarrhea that persists for an average of 57 days. The illness is caused by parasites that are spread when people eat food or drink water that is contaminated with feces. The infections are rare in the United States, but more common in tropical or subtropical countries. Imported fruits and vegetables have been linked to Cyclospora outbreaks in the past.
Symptoms of cyclospora infection include:
- Fatigue (feeling tired)
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Intestinal gas
- Stomach cramps
- Muscle aches
- Low-grade fever
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