The Cyclospora outbreak in six states has sickened at least 244 people, according to reports from health departments. In Iowa, 118 people are sick, while in Nebraska, at least 63 have been sickened. Texas has a case count of 56, Wisconsin has four, Illinois two, and Kansas one.
The cases in Iowa and Nebraska appear to be connected, but health officials don’t know if the cases in the other states are part of the same outbreak. For comparison, there are usually about 100 cases of Cyclospora infections reported every year in the entire country.
According to the update from the Iowa Department of Health, the number of cases reported is decreasing, and the source of the outbreak is “unknown at this time”. The investigation is focusing on determining the source of the contamination. According to illness onset dates, people ate the contaminated food in mid-June. “This is a very good indication the food which was the source of the outbreak has already been consumed or discarded, since fresh vegetables have a limited shelf life,” according to the press release. Officials stated that “at no time was an Iowa-grown fruit or vegetable suspected to be the cause of the outbreak.”
According to Dr. Craig Hedberg of the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, “the primary reason for discounting local production sources is that previous outbreaks of Cyclospora infections have been associated with imported products, and the natural reservoir and route of contamination has generally not been known. Thus, there isn’t a real precedent for locally sourced produce as the likely source of an outbreak in this area. That alone shouldn’t be a basis for ruling it out, but there may not be a lot of locally sourced produce in this market during this time frame anyway.” The growing season in the Midwest was delayed because of late snowstorms and wet fields.
Dr. Henry Anderson, State Health Officer for Wisconsin, said in a statement, “because Cyclospora can cause a prolonged illness and the disease is treatable with sulfa drugs, we want people to know that they should contact their doctor if they experience a gastrointestinal illness with watery diarrhea that lasts more than two or three days.” The illness can last a long time, and can recur even after treatment.