October 19, 2017

Texas Cyclospora Outbreak: Now 259 Sick

The Cyclospora outbreak in Texas has now sickened 259 people, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services. That’s an increase of 29 people since the last update on August 18, 2017. This current outbreak started in late June, 2017.  Last year, there were 148 people sickened with this illness.

Woman Stomach Ache

This long-lasting illness is caused by the Cyclospora parasite, which is endemic to tropical regions. Past outbreaks have been caused by fresh produce such as raspberries, cilantro, mesclun, basil, and snow peas.

The Cyclospora oocysts are shed in feces. The oocyst must develop before it becomes infectious; this process can take a few weeks.

Public health officials in Texas have still not determined a common source for this outbreak. Doctors and health care practitioners are being asked to be on the lookout for people presenting with the symptoms of this illness, and to order tests for cyclosporiasis if necessary.

The symptoms of the illness include explosive and recurring  watery diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, bloating, stomach cramps and pain, bloating, increased gas, fatigue and lethargy, nausea, vomiting, body aches, headache, and fever. These symptoms can recur for months after the initial infection.

The counties in Texas with the most ill persons include Bexar (35), Dallas (13), Denton (9), Fort Bend (12), Harris (66), Tarrant (20) Travis (23), and Williamson (8). This outbreak has grown from 68 ill in July to the current number.

If you have been experiencing these symptoms, please see your doctor. There are antibiotics to treat the disease, but some people can’t tolerate it. If someone has a sulfa allergy, or does not respond to standard treatment, there are no highly effective alternative regimens identified. The illness is usually not spread person-to-person.

To help prevent further illnesses, officials recommend that you thoroughly wash all fresh produce. The problem is that the oocysts cling to produce, especially types with crinkled skin and fissures, such as greens. Cooking will kill the parasite.

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