July 23, 2014 — Texas health officials are investigating an outbreak of Cyclospora of unknown origin. At least 61 infections have been reported in the last month. Before July, only 8 cases were reported in Texas this year.
In a statement posted by Tarrant County Public Health, which covers the Dallas-Ft. Worth area:
“No common exposure source has yet been identified with this increase. Past outbreaks in the U.S. have been associated with the consumption of imported fresh produce; including fresh cilantro, pre-packaged salad mix, raspberries, basil, snow peas, and mesclun lettuce.”
Texas is not the only state reporting an unusual number of cases. Four cases were reported in Maine between June 24 and July 7. The last known case in a Maine resident was in 2010.
Last year, a Cyclospora outbreak sickened at least 631 people in 25 states. Texas was the hardest-hit state, with over 270 infections reported to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Health officials in Texas linked some cases to fresh cilantro from Mexico. Health officials in Iowa and Nebraska traced other cases to imported fresh salad mix from Mexico.
Cyclospora is difficult to wash off produce, which is why raw foods like salad are such a concern. Even so, health officials recommend thoroughly washing fresh produce to reduce the risk of infection. Produce that has been cooked is not a problem.
Epidemiologists are asking healthcare professionals to test patients for cyclosporiasis if they have diarrhea lasting more than a few days. The necessary lab tests are not routine and must be special ordered. If the disease is not diagnosed, symptoms can last for weeks or even months.
Symptoms of infection typically appear 2-14 days after Cyclospora is ingested, and may include:
- Chronic diarrhea
- Abdominal cramps
- Increased gas
- Low-grade fever
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