At least 358 people in 26 states have parasitic infections from food contaminated with Cyclospora, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Clusters of illness related to restaurant food have been identified in Georgia, Texas and Wisconsin. Health officials have not released the names of those restaurants.
Cyclospora causes an infection called cyclosporiasis which causes profuse, often explosive, diarrhea that can last up to two months. Other cyclosporiasis symptoms, which can also last more than 60 days, include abdominal cramps, bloating, gas, nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, body aches, low-grade fever, and other flu-like symptoms.
About 56 percent of the illnesses have occurred since May 1, 2015. Cilantro imported from the Puebla region of Mexico has been identified as the source of at least some of the illnesses in Wisconsin and Texas.
Texas has been hard hit by the outbreak with more than 210 cases reported, many of them in Travis County which includes the Austin metropolitan area. The Austin, Dallas and San Antonio metro areas have also reported large numbers of illnesses.
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials investigating the outbreak visited cilantro farms and processing facilities in the Puebla area where they found human waste and toilet paper in the fields and other unsanitary conditions.
Consumers should be careful not to purchase imported cilantro form grocery stores. Kroger has issued a recall for cilantro sold at some of its stores. This is the third straight year that produce imported from Mexico has been linked to a Cyclospora outbreak.
In 2013, 227 cases in Iowa and Nebraska were linked to a commercial bagged salad mix produced by Taylor Farms of Mexico and served at Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants. Several lawsuits were filed.
Ryan Osterholm, a noted food safety attorney, represented an Iowa woman who contracted a parasitic Cyclospora infection after eating at an Olive Garden. Her illness lasted several weeks and required three trips to the emergency room, according to the complaint.