Cyclospora Outbreak Grows in North Texas

Nebraska, Iowa outbreaks linked to prepackaged salad mix

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Texas public health officials have received 122 reports of the illness but have not yet found a link.

    North Texans are buying locally grown produce to avoid the the foodborne parasitic disease cyclosporiasis.

    "You got to be worried about it, because they don’t know what’s causing it -- you know, what fruits or whether it's fruits or vegetables or what," Mike Hill said.

    Texas public health officials have received 122 reports of the illness but have not yet found a link.

    At the Denton County Farmers Market, local growers say business is booming because of the outbreak.

    “We’ve had more people this year than last year. Our sales have been, are up 400, 500 this year," said Kade Copp with D-Bar Farms in Prosper.

    "These guys are usually doing it more organically, you know, and they pick them when they’re ready to be picked and not sitting in storage," Darline McDonald said.

    Iowa, Nebraska Outbreak Linked to Salad Mix

    Iowa and Nebraska health officials said Tuesday that a prepackaged salad mix is the source of a cyclospora outbreak that sickened more than 178 people in those states.

    But it's not clear that illnesses in any other states are linked to prepackaged salad mix. Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it's not clear whether all of the illnesses are linked to a single source.

    North Texas doctors have been unable to pinpoint the source of the outbreak in Texas. Tarrant County epidemiologists are interviewing people who've fallen ill to find out where they purchased fruits and vegetables and what restaurants they visited.

    Nebraska officials said the salad mix included iceberg and romaine lettuce, along with red cabbage and carrots, and came through national distribution chains. A spokeswoman for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services said the agency was still trying to identify the specific brand or brands.

    "CDC is still actively pursuing all leads and hasn't implicated any single food item as the cause of the outbreak in all states," said CDC spokeswoman Sharon Hoskins. "We're still not sure if the cases in all of the states are linked to the same outbreak."

    Hoskins said that in some previous outbreaks of cyclospora, the cause was never discovered.

    The FDA said Tuesday that it is following Iowa's lead on the salad mix but is following other leads as well. An agency statement said investigators are trying to trace the paths of the food eaten by those who fell ill. That process is "labor intensive and painstaking work, requiring the collection, review and analysis of hundreds and at times thousands of invoices and shipping documents," the FDA said.

    Dallas County Reports Record Number of Cases

    More than 50 cases of cyclospora have been reported in North Texas.

    In Dallas County a record number of 23 people have been sickened by the parasite. Over the previous 12 years, the county has had 12 cases total, county health leaders said.

    In Tarrant County, there are now 28 confirmed cases of cyclosporaisis as of 7 a.m . Tuesday -- a 75 percent increase from the 18 cases reported on Friday. But county commissioners were told Tuesday morning that, despite the big spike in reported cases, the last was contracted weeks ago.

    "So although cases have been reported, it isn't that the illness is still ongoing, and this is a trend that we're seeing nationally as well as in the other states that are affected," said Dr. Sandra Parker, Tarrant County Public Health medical director.

    Collin County also is reporting dozens of cases of the disease in their area.

    Hundreds of Cases Reported in 15 States

    The CDC says 372 cases of the cyclospora infection, which causes diarrhea and other flu-like symptoms, have been reported in 15 states: Iowa, Texas, Nebraska, Florida, Wisconsin, Illinois, New York, Georgia, Missouri, Arkansas, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey and Ohio.

    The CDC said at least 21 people have been hospitalized and most of the reported illnesses occurred from mid-June to early July. The CDC and the Food and Drug Administration are investigating the cyclospora infections but have not yet pointed to a source.

    Cyclospora illnesses are spread when people ingest foods or water contaminated with feces. The illnesses are most often found in tropical or subtropical countries and have been linked to imported fresh fruits and vegetables in the past.

    Teenagers up to people in their 70s have become sick. Doctors say thoroughly washing -- not just rinse -- fruits and vegetables is recommended but may not eliminate the risk of transmission because the parasite can be difficult to wash off all types of produce.