A recent surge in reports of illnesses due to the parasite Cyclospora has prompted the Texas Department of State Health Services to begin an investigation into the infections in hopes of determining a common source. DSHS has received reports of 77 Cyclosporiasis cases from around Texas this year, including 69 in the last month. The department is collaborating with local health departments to gather information and identify the cause.
Last year, Texas had 351 cases, more than any other state. In most previous years, the number of cases reported was in the single or low double digits.
Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness caused by consuming food or water contaminated with the Cyclospora parasite. The major symptom is watery diarrhea lasting a few days to a few months. Additional symptoms may include loss of appetite, fatigue, weight loss, abdominal cramps, bloating, increased gas, nausea, vomiting and a low fever. Symptoms may come and go multiple times over a period of weeks.
People who think they may have a Cyclospora infection should contact their health care provider. DSHS encourages health care providers to test patients for Cyclospora if they have diarrheal illness lasting more than a few days or diarrhea accompanied by a severe loss of appetite or fatigue. Cases should be reported promptly.
DSHS recommends thoroughly washing fresh produce, but that may not entirely eliminate the risk because Cyclospora can be difficult to wash off. Cooking will kill the parasite.
Although no common exposure source has been identified yet, past outbreaks in the United States have been associated with imported fresh produce, including pre-packaged salad mix, raspberries, basil, snow peas and mesclun greens. A 2013 outbreak in Texas was linked, at least in part, to fresh cilantro from Puebla, Mexico.