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Multi-state Outbreak of Parasites in Fruits, Veggies Identified by FDA, CDC

Mechele R. Dillard's picture

Wash those fruits and veggies well, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warns.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local officials are investigating a multi-state outbreak of Cyclospora infections. As of July 22, 2013, more than 250 cases have been identified by the CDC in multiple states, including Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Wisconsin, Georgia and Connecticut. However, the CDC is unclear as to whether or not all of these cases are part of a single outbreak, or if the multiple cases could be involved with multiple contamination sources, specifically infected food products.

Cyclospora is a parasite. It is a single cell, so it cannot be seen without a microscope. When infected, patients develop an intestinal infection called cyclosporiasis. Patients become infected by ingesting food or water that has been contaminated with the parasite. It is not likely, the FDA indicates, that it can be passed from one individual to another, due to the long time it needs to become infectious. Instead, people can become infected consuming food or water that is already contaminated, particularly when travelling in countries where cyclosporiasis is endemic (certain tropical or subtropical regions of the world) or eating food imported from these regions.

It typically takes one week for a person to become sick after becoming infected with cyclosporiasis. Symptoms include diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps/pain, bloating, increased gas, nausea and fatigue. Additionally, some patients have also reported vomiting, body aches, headache, fever and other flu-like symptoms. Without treatment, the symptoms can last a few days to more than a month. Relapses are common without treatment. The FDA indicates patients should contact their healthcare provider if they have diarrhea for more than three days.

Consumers should be careful when handling and preparing foods, washing hands, utensils and surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after handling foods. Fresh produce should be thoroughly washed before it is eaten, including “pre-washed” fruits and vegetables. Additionally, fruits and vegetables imported from other countries are more likely to be contaminated than produce grown in the U.S.

The FDA encourages consumers with questions about food safety to call 1-888-SAFEFOOD or consult the website: 6. For more information about cyclosporiasis, visit the FDA website.

Image: FDA