January 24, 2019

Cyclospora Hits Des Moines, Cedar Rapids Hard

Cyclospora is a one-celled parasite that can cause a laundry list of unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms persisting as long as two months. The parasite is rare and usually associated with tropical or sub-tropical regions, hardly how anyone would describe Iowa. Yet that state has been hit the hardest by a Cyclospora outbreak that may include almost 400 cases in 15 states.

cyclospora-outbreak-384Most of Iowa’s cases are in two counties. Linn County, where Cedar Rapids is located has 42 cases.  Polk County, where Des Moins is located has 17.  The remaining 84 cases are scattered throughout the sate.

The cases in Iowa were caused by the same source as the 78 cases reported in Nebraska, five of whom required treatment at a hospital. Yesterday, health departments from both of those states announced that the food source of the outbreak was pre-washed, pre-packaged salad mix sold at stores and served at restaurants. The salad mix contained romaine and iceberg lettuces, carrots and red cabbage.

The brand name of the salad, where it was grown, sold and distributed has not been released by officials. And it probably won’t be.  “The Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA) has no plan to release the names of the mixed salad brands, stores, or restaurants involved in the recent cyclospora outbreak.  DIA only releases that information if there is a public health risk.  At this point, with the prepackaged salad mix no longer available to the public, we do not have that risk.  Regarding the grower of the products, it will be up to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to conduct the trace-back on the products’ origin.  As the product was sold in interstate commerce, the FDA has jurisdiction,” David Werning, Public Information Officer, for Iowa Department of Public Health’s office of  Inspections and Appeals, told Food Poisoning Bulletin this morning.

Cases in Iowa and Nebraska make up 55 percent of Cyclospora Illnesses reported in a total of 15 states. Not all of the illnesses are part of the same outbreak. Case count reported to Food Poisoning Bulletin on July 30 were as follows: Iowa (143), Texas (122), Nebraska (76), Florida (24), Wisconsin* (10), New York (5), Illinois* (4) Georgia (3), Connecticut (2), Missouri (2),  Arkansas* (1), Kansas *(1), Minnesota (1), New Jersey (1), Ohio (1), (*Notes: Arkansas health officials don’t think  their case is part of the outbreak based on information from an interview with the patient. Florida hasn’t found a common restaurant or food exposure among its case patients.  One of the cases in Illinois was likely exposed while visiting Iowa. The case in Kansas was likely exposed while visiting Nebraska. In Wisconsin, eight of the 10 cases are linked to the outbreak, one is not and one is pending test results.  The total number of cases in this story is current per each state today and therefore exceeds the number on the CDC’s most recent update.)

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