The outbreak of cyclosporiasis in Texas has increased to 121, according to the Texas Department of Health and Human Services. One hundred nine cases have been reported in the last two weeks.
This illness is caused by the Cyclospora parasite. Most cases are in Travis county with 55. Eight are sick in Williamson county, six are sick in Dallas county, five in Harris county, and four in Hays county.
Cyclosporiasis ia an intestinal illness caused by eating food or drinking water contaminated with the parasite. The main symptom is watery diarrhea that can last for months. Other symptoms include weight loss, loss of appetite, abdominal cramps, bloating, gas, nausea, vomiting, and a low fever.
Past outbreaks have been linked to fresh produce, including raspberries, basil, snow peas, lettuce, and pre-packaged salad mix. An outbreak in Texas last year sickened at least 200 people. Some of those cases were associated with cilantro imported from the Puebla region in Mexico.
Healthcare workers are encouraged to test patients for this illness if they have diarrhea lasting more than a few days, or if they have diarrhea accompanied by weight loss or fatigue. A single stool specimen doesn’t exclude the diagnosis; three specimens are optimal.
To contract this illness, you must ingest mature oocysts in contaminated food or water. The oocysts are ejected in feces, but they are not immediately infective. The parasite must mature again and contaminate food or water to sicken another person. The disease usually isn’t passed from person to person.
To avoid this illness, always thoroughly wash all fresh produce before eating or preparing it. It can be difficult to remove from produce. There is no word yet on if a common contaminated food or water source is the cause of this outbreak.