It’s a mysterious infection. It’s on the rise. Here’s how to recognize it
Only Texas has more domestic infections of cyclosporiasis than Florida, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And the CDC still doesn’t know what’s causing this year’s swell of cyclosporiasis.
If you’re wondering “what the heck is cyclosporiasis?” this is how the CDC explains it.
A single cell parasite, cyclospora cayetanensis, rides food into your system to cause an intestinal infection. While rarely fatal, the infection usually causes watery diarrhea, explosive bowel movements along with increased flatulation, weight loss, cramping, bloating and nausea.
Outbreaks in 2013, 2014 and 2015 were traced to Mexican cilantro. Peruvian basil was blamed for the 2005 epidemic that sickened 582 in Florida. But, no such imported fresh produce culprit exists yet this year.
“At this time, no specific vehicle of interest has been identified, and investigations to identify a potential source (or sources) of infection are ongoing,” the CDC says. “It is too early to say whether cases of cyclospora infection in different states are related to each other or to the same food item(s).”
The CDC knows of 1,054 infections in the United States this year, 592 (56.2 percent) of which were from people who had not traveled internationally and became ill after May 1. Infections tend to rise each year as May starts. Among that 592, Texas (172) and Florida (78) account for 42.2 percent.
Preventing cyclosporiasis relies on common-sense food preparation practices.
▪ Wash your hands with soap and warm water before and after handling fruit, vegetables, seafood, poultry, raw meat.
▪ Wash cutting boards thoroughly after each round of cutting.
▪ Rinse fruit and vegetables under running water unless labeled “pre-washed.”
▪ Scrub firm fruit and vegetables (melons, cucumbers) with a produce brush.
▪ Refrigerate cut fruit and vegetables as soon as possible and away from raw meat, poultry or seafood.