Cyclospora is a parasite that can be found on imported produce or berries, as well as in water which has been contaminated by feces. This parasite, if consumed, causes an infection of the small intestine and has recently infected many people in the United States. The most recent outbreak of this infection was found in multiple counties in Texas.
Symptoms of the Cyclosporiasis infection include, but are not limited to, watery diarrhea with frequent bowl movements, flu-like symptoms, nausea and vomiting, fatigue, and loss of appetite. Of course if someone is experiencing any of these symptoms for more than a day it is recommended to seek medical attention from a physician as soon as possible.
Testing for Cyclospora consists of submitting a stool sample to the physician which will then be sent to a laboratory for further examination. If the parasite is present in the sample, the physician will contact the patient with further instructions. In some cases multiple stool samples may be required to obtain accurate results. Those who were previously diagnosed with Cyclosporiasis are still at risk for becoming infected again.
Treatment for this infection should be administered from a licensed physician. If diagnosed with Cyclosporiasis, a prescription is given for the combination of two antibiotics trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, as well as instructions to drink plenty of fluids for the prevention of dehydration.
There seems to be an outbreak of Cyclospora infection in the United States during the warm summer months. It is noted by the CDC that cases of the infection tend to escalate during this time. In 2013 there were 631 documented cases of Cyclospora infection in 25 states across the country. In 2014 there were 202 known cases, that in which 110 were documented to be solely in the Lone Star State, Texas. Recently it is known that 24 cases of this infection have surfaced in Texas again this year, and the summer has just begun.
Fresh produce such as leafy greens, berries, and melons, among other fruits and vegetables are mostly available in the warmer months of the year, making them easily accessible. The summer months are known for lighter foods, such as salads containing fruit and vegetables, as well as other popular dishes containing fresh produce. Many of these dishes can be found at barbecues and other parties, which occur more often this same season.
Prevention for Cyclospora should include washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly to remove harmful agents that may be on the surfaces. It is also recommended to wash the counter surface or cutting board along with knives, hands, and other items being used to prepare the fresh fruit and vegetables. There are some recipes for fruit and vegetable washes; however, there are no guarantees as to the outcome being completely successful.
People who know that their fruit and vegetables are imported from other countries should take extra precautions in preparing their food. Those who are not sure, or do not know exactly where their produce is coming from should ask at the grocery store or market where the items are being purchased. If consuming produce from a home garden, then one should take the normal precautions performed regularly.
Individuals should enjoy the fresh produce supplied during the summer months, but pay more attention to the origin of the fruit and vegetables, as well as take the time to wash them thoroughly and prepare them properly for consumption. The United States Food and Drug Administration can only do so much to aid in the prevention of food-borne infections; it is ultimately the consumer who must remember to be proactive, and take the necessary steps to prevent a Cyclospora infection inside the home.
By Deborah Narimanidze
Edited by Chanel van der Woodsen
CDC.gov: Parasites- Cyclosporiasis (Cyclospora Infection)
FoodSafetyNews: Cyclospora Outbreak Reaches 202 cases; More Than Half are in Texas
Suntimes: Dozens of Texans Infected with Cyclospora
NBCDFW: What to Know About the Cyclospora Parasite
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