The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is investigating an outbreak of Cyclospora infections (cyclosporiasis) in 15 states: Iowa, Texas, Nebraska, Florida, Wisconsin, Illinois, Georgia, Missouri, Arkansas, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, and Ohio. Almost 400 people have contracted cyclosporiasis, which can cause weeks of diarrhea.
What is the food that is making people sick?
Bagged salad mix is the source of this outbreak, according to the CDC and Iowa and Nebraska health officials. The Iowa Department of Public Health reported that the salad mix contained iceberg and romaine lettuce, carrots and red cabbage. The Nebraska Department of Health stated that the salad mix came through national distribution channels.
What is Cyclospora?
Cyclospora cayetanensis is a parasite composed of one, microscopic cell. This parasite causes an intestinal infection called cyclosporiasis.
How is did Cyclospora spread in this outbreak?
Cyclospora is spread by people eating food or water that was contaminated with human feces (stool) containing Cyclospora oocysts. When the oocyts are excreted, they are unsporulated (in an uninfectious state). It takes days or weeks after Cyclospora is passed in a bowel movement for it to become sporulated (infectious for another person). In this outbreak, the lettuce, carrots or cabbage most likely got contaminated with human feces containing unsporulated Cyclospora oocysts. The ingredients were picked, processed and bagged at a plant. From there, the bagged salad went to restaurants and possibly other locations. By the time people ate the salad, the oocyts had sporulated, making them able to infect people.
What are the symptoms of Cyclospora infection?
It takes about a week after eating food contaminated with Cyclospora to become sick. 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.
What is the treatment?
The recommended treatment is a combination of two antibiotics, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (a sulfa medication), also known as Bactrim, Septra, or Cotrim. People who have diarrhea should also rest and drink plenty of fluids.
How long can the symptoms last?
If not treated, the illness may last from a few days to a month or longer. Symptoms may seem to go away and then return one or more times (relapse). It’s common to feel very tired.
Victims have been contacting attorneys for legal help. “If your case of Cyclospora is linked to a restaurant, you have the right to sue that restaurant for compensation,” said Attorney Fred Pritzker, who has been contacted by victims of this outbreak.