We all love a yummy, healthy salad or stir fry, but we may need to start paying more attention to where our fresh produce comes from. The Texas Department of State Health Services has received reports of 68 cases of Cyclospora infection from mid-June through mid-July. Health officials have not yet been able to identify a common cause for the current increase in cases, but in the past the parasite has been found in imported fresh produce, including basil, cilantro, bagged salads, mixed baby greens, raspberries and snow peas.

Thoroughly washing produce, while a good idea, may not eliminate the risk of Cyclospora transmission. Cyclospora, an infection of the small intestine, is generally not transmitted directly from person-to-person but through contact with contaminated food and water. Because abdominal pain is the No. 1 reason for emergency room visits, it's smart to know when you should go to the ER with stomach pain.

Symptoms of Cyclospora infection.

Cyclospora has a longer incubation period than most foodborne bacterial illnesses, with symptoms often not appearing for a week or more after ingestion. This makes it difficult to trace the source. If you or someone you know has the symptoms below, see your physician immediately and ask about being tested for Cyclospora so proper treatment can be administered.

Common symptoms of Cyclospora that can last from a few days to a month or longer and may recur one or more times:

  • Frequent, watery, sometimes explosive, diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss/anorexia
  • Bloating, increased gas
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

Less common symptoms:

  • Vomiting
  • Body aches
  • Fever
  • Other flu-like symptoms

Cold versus Flu versus Stomach Virus Infographic

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Treatment for Cyclospora infection.

Diagnosing a case of Cyclospora infection involves the examination of a stool sample by a medical professional. Treatments include:

  • A combination of two antibiotics, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (Bactrim, Septra, Cotrim)
  • Anti-diarrheal (check with your physician before taking)
  • Drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration
  • Rest

Preventing Cyclospora infection.

The best way to prevent Cyclospora infection is to avoid food and water that may have been contaminated with human feces. Seems like a no brainer, but Cyclospora is a one-celled parasite, too small to be seen without a microscope.

Here's what you can do to protect your family from Cyclospora (other than growing all your own food and digging a well in the back 40):

  • Wash hands with soap and water after handling or preparing produce and raw meat and seafood
  • Wash all utensils and preparation surfaces after each type of food is prepped
  • Wash fruits and veggies under running water before eating, cutting or cooking
    • Scrub firm produce with a clean produce brush
    • Cut away spoiled areas before preparing and eating
  • Thoroughly cook all food — cooking kills Cyclospora
  • Refrigerate food items appropriately and separate fruits and vegetables from raw meats

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