Texas health officials warn of foodborne illness outbreak

Texas state health officials have issued a health advisory and are warning of an increase in Texas in the number of people who’ve contracted a foodborne illness – cyclosporiasis – often linked to imported produce.

The Texas Department of State Health Services (DHSH) says 68 cases of cyclosporiasis have been reported in in June 2017 and officials are asking health care providers to pursue testing and report any additional cases.

A spike in illnesses caused by the parasite Cyclospora in June and July is prompting the Texas DSHS to ask health care providers to be on guard for the illness, pursue testing, and report cases to their local health department. Within the past month, 68 cases have been reported in the state, and DSHS is working with local health departments to gather information about the illnesses and identify a source. In comparison, there were 148 cases of cyclosporiasis in Texas reported last year.

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About Cyclosporiasis

There are more than 250 different foodborne diseases, but cyclosporiasis is among the most common that are closely tracked by health agencies. Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness caused by consuming food or water contaminated with the microscopic Cyclospora cayetanensis parasite, composed of one cell, too small to be seen without a microscope. This parasite causes an intestinal infection called cyclosporiasis.

Persons of all ages are at risk for infection. Cyclospora is spread by people ingesting something – such as food or water – that was contaminated with feces (stool). Cyclospora needs time (days to weeks) after being passed in a bowel movement to become infectious for another person.

Past outbreaks in the U.S. have been associated with consumption of imported fresh produce, including fresh pre-packaged salad mix, raspberries, basil, snow peas, and mesclun greens. Texas has had multiple outbreaks linked to cilantro.

Symptoms of Cyclosporiasis Infection

The main symptom of Cyclosporiasis 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 or months.

What to do if Showing Symptoms Cyclosporiasis

People with symptoms that could be related to Cyclospora should contact their health care provider for treatment. The health advisory issued asks providers to test patients who have diarrhea lasting more than a few days or diarrhea accompanied by severe loss of appetite or fatigue. Health care providers should promptly report cases so that public health can investigate them and attempt to determine the source in order to head off future cases.

How to Prevent Cyclospora Infection

DSHS recommends thoroughly washing all fresh produce, but that may not entirely eliminate the risk because Cyclospora can be very difficult to wash off. Cooking will kill the parasite. Infection is generally not transmitted directly from person-to-person.

Reporting and More Info

Healthcare providers and laboratories should promptly report confirmed cyclosporiasis cases to their respective local health department or the Texas Department of State Health Services (Phone: 1-800-705-8868, Fax: 512-776-7616). Information about Cyclospora is available at: www.cdc.gov/parasites/cyclosporiasis/health_professionals/index.html

CDC – Cyclosporiasis Provider Fact Sheet
English: PDF [775 KB]
Spanish: PDF [793 KB]