Food contaminated with the Cyclospora parasite has sickened at least 113 people in 26 Texas counties over the last few weeks. The major metropolitan areas of Dallas, Houston, Austin and San Antonio are included.
This is the third straight year that Texas has been hit with a cyclosporiasis outbreak. Both previous outbreaks were linked to cilantro imported from the the Puebla region of Mexico.
Symptoms of cyclosporiasis can last up to two months and include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, bloating, gas, nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, body aches, low-grade fever, and other flu-like symptoms. Some case patients from past outbreaks said the diarrhea is so frequent and forceful they have missed days of work.
Cyclospora is a parasite normally found in tropical or sub-tropical areas. Food can become contaminated with Cyclospora through unsanitary conditions at a farm, processing plant or distribution center; or from fields where human waste was used as fertilizer or fields contaminated water was used for irrigation.
Usually, only 150 cases of cyclosporiasis are reported annually nationwide, but in addition to the Texas outbreaks, there have been other outbreaks in recent years. One, in 2013, was linked to bagged salad served at restaurants in Nebraska and Iowa. In total, 631 people in 25 states were sickened by Cyclospora that year.
Some outbreaks have been linked to fresh produce including raspberries, snow peas, basil, cilantro, mesclun and salad. Cyclospora can be difficult to wash off, but washing produce under cold running water and then drying it is one of the best ways to reduce contamination from parasites and bacteria.