March 22, 2018

Cyclospora: Almost 600 Sick, Slow Progress, No Recall

Almost 600 people in 20 states now have confirmed cases of Cyclospora infection, according to the latest update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). And the actual total is likely higher as some states have consistently reported more cases than are reflected in the agency’s updates. (This post was updated August 19.)

CyclosporaThe outbreak has grown steadily since it was announced in early July, but with the exception of Iowa and Nebraska, progress on the investigation has been slow. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has described the work as “painstaking.”

Health officials in Iowa and Nebraska linked their cases to salad served at Red Lobster and Olive Garden restaurants in those states. Days later, the FDA announced that the source of the contaminated salad served at those restaurants was Taylor Farms de Mexico but did not link the salad mix to Cyclospora outbreaks in the other states. One week later, Taylor Farms voluntarily agreed to suspend operations at its plant in Mexico, stopping production and shipments of all ingredients in the salad mix aas well as green lettuce and green cabbage. No recalls have been issued. And, at this time, no other potential food sources have been mentioned by the federal agencies leading this investigation.

Cyclospora, a rare parasite usually associated with tropical and sub-tropical regions, causes symptoms which  untreated can last for two months and include bouts of explosive diarrhea, loss of appetite, cramping, bloating, gas, nausea, fatigue and weight loss. One of the obstacles to the investigation is that Cyclospora is not something doctors routinely screen for and diagnoses may have been missed prior to the announcement of the outbreak. And, except for their duration, the symptoms of cyclosporiasis are not  unusual enough to distinguish themselves from other gastrointestinal maladies.

At least 586 people have confirmed Cyclospora infections. By state the case totalas are as follows: Texas (244), Iowa (155), Nebraska (86), Florida (29), Wisconsin (16), Illinois (11), Arkansas (10), New York City (5), Georgia (4), Kansas (4), Missouri (4), Louisiana(3), Connecticut (2), Minnesota (2), New Jersey (2), New York (2), Ohio (2), Virginia (1), California (1), New Hampshire (1), and Tennessee (1).

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