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Texas Officials Warn of Increase in Food-Borne Illness

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    Texas Officials Warn of Increase in Food-Borne Illness
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    State health officials are warning of an increase in Texas in the number of people who've contracted a food-borne illness often linked to imported produce.

    The Department of State Health Services says 68 cases of cyclosporiasis have been reported in the last month and officials are asking health care providers to pursue testing and report any additional cases.

    There are more than 250 different food-borne diseases, but cyclosporiasis is among the most common that are closely tracked by health agencies.

    It often spreads when human feces contaminated with the cyclospora parasite come into contact with water or produce.

    Those sickened can suffer from diarrhea, cramps, fatigue and vomiting.

    Health officials recommend thoroughly washing all produce, but cyclospora can be difficult to wash off. Cooking will kill the parasite.

    What to Know About Cyclospora/Cyclosporiasis: CDC

    How is the parasite spread?
    Cyclospora is spread by people ingesting something contaminated with feces. Since the parasite needs time to become infectious after being passed in a bowel movement, it's unlikely that it can be passed directly from person to person.

    Who is at risk of infection?
    People living or traveling in areas where the parasite is endemic are at risk. In the U.S., foodborne outbreaks have been linked to imported produce in 2014 and 2015.

    What are the symptoms?
    Some infected persons are asymptomatic, particularly in settings where cyclosporiasis is endemic. Among symptomatic persons, the incubation period averages ~1 week (ranges from ~2-14 or more days). cyclospora infects the small intestine and typically causes watery diarrhea, with frequent, sometimes explosive, stools. Other common symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal cramping/bloating, increased flatus, nausea, and prolonged fatigue. Vomiting, body aches, low-grade fever, and other flu-like symptoms may be noted. If untreated, the illness may last for a few days to a month or longer, and may follow a remitting-relapsing course. Although cyclosporiasis usually is not life threatening, reported complications have included malabsorption, cholecystitis, and Reiter's Syndrome (reactive arthritis).

    How do you prevent infection?
    On the basis of currently available information, avoiding food or water that might have been contaminated with stool is the best way to prevent infection. Travelers to cyclosporiasis-endemic areas should be told that food and water precautions for cyclospora are similar to those for other intestinal pathogens, except that cyclospora is unlikely to be killed by routine chemical disinfection or sanitizing methods. Symptomatic reinfection can occur. Cooking produce with the parasite will kill the parasite.

    What should I do if I believe I'm infected?
    See your doctor immediately.

    How is the infection treated?
    Cyclosporiasis infections are generally treated with a combination of two antibiotics. Those with diarrhea should also get rest and drink plenty of fluids.

    More Information: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention