July 22, 2019

CDC Chronicles Decades of Surveillance Over Cyclospora in Food

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Thursday it has investigated Cyclospora outbreaks over the past two decades — a surveillance record that adds to the credibility of the agency’s report that the current outbreak of Cyclospora in Iowa, Texas, Nebraska, Florida and elsewhere is associated with bagged salad. The CDC chronicled its work identifying outbreaks of cyclosporiasis  in its latest Morbitity and and Mortality Weekly Report. CDC, in collaboration with state and local public health authorities, analyzes each reported case for epidemiologic evidence of linkage to other cases to facilitate rapid identification and investigation of outbreaks. U.S. clusters of cases have been documented almost every year since 1995, the agency said.

Child Food PoisoningFor the period 1997 to 2008, the CDC said, approximately 3,000 outbreak-associated cases were reported. Many of the documented outbreaks during 1997–2008 affected multiple states, either because of multistate distribution of the implicated produce item (usually imported) or because persons from multiple states attended a conference or other event.

The CDC’s experience with Cyclospora outbreaks includes a Canadian outbreak in May 1998 that hit Ontario in clusters. Investigation led to a finding that fresh raspberries imported from Guatemala were linked to illnesses in nearly 200 people. There were 13 different clusters in all. More recently, in 2004, there was an outbreak of the parasitic disease at a residential facility in Pennsylvania that sickened about 100 people. An investigation by health officials linked the illnesses to consumption of raw Guatemalan snow peas that were served at five special events.

National food safety lawyer Fred Pritzker of Pritzker Olsen Attorneys has been openly critical of the CDC and other health agencies involved the current outbreak of cyclosporiasis for not naming the salad processor or individual restaurant chains that sold the tainted product into the U.S. market. In addition, there has been no announcement as to what individual produce item in the bagged salad mix was contaminated with Cyclospora. In the snow pea outbreak, CDC successfully pinpointed the cause after first determining that a pasta salad was to blame. The pasta salad included multiple types of raw produce besides snow peas and none of them had been implicated in investigations of previous outbreaks of cyclosporiasis. Further analysis found it was the snow peas that were making people sick.

Pritzker and his Bad Bug Law Team are investigating the current bagged salad outbreak on behalf of victims. For many of the the individuals who are stricken by the parasite, the illness lasts weeks, if not months. Relapsing watery diarrhea is the chief symptom and it can be accompanied by frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements. Other common symptoms of Cyclospora infection 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.

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