Cyclospora Parasite Prompts Public Health Investigation
During the past 5 summers, a large number of cyclosporiasis cases have occurred in Texas.
And the summer of 2018 continues this unfortunate trend.
As of July 2, 2018, the Texas Department of Health and Human Services (DSHS) officials are investigating 56 cases of illness due to the parasite Cyclospora since the beginning of May.
DSHS reported 319 cases of cyclosporiasis for 2017.
This infection is generally not transmitted directly from person-to-person.
Texas issued a recent health advisory on June 21, 2018, requesting healthcare providers to test patients who have diarrhea lasting more than a few days or diarrhea accompanied by severe loss of appetite or fatigue.
Diagnosis of cyclosporiasis can be made by submission of stool specimens for “Ova and Parasite” testing, with additional specific orders for Cyclospora identification. Cyclospora may also be detected by molecular methods.
Healthcare providers and laboratories are required to report confirmed cyclosporiasis cases to their respective local health department.
Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness caused by consuming food or water contaminated with the microscopic Cyclospora parasite.
The main symptom is watery diarrhea lasting a few days to a few months. Additional symptoms may include loss of appetite, fatigue, weight loss, abdominal cramps, bloating, increased gas, nausea, vomiting and a low fever.
These symptoms may come and go multiple times over a period of weeks or months.
Past outbreaks in the U.S. have been associated with consumption of imported fresh produce, including fresh pre-packaged salad mix, raspberries, basil, snow peas, and mesclun greens.
Texas has reported multiple outbreaks linked to cilantro.
DSHS recommends thoroughly washing all fresh produce, but that may not entirely eliminate the risk, because Cyclospora can be very difficult to wash off.
Cooking will kill this parasite.
Additional information about Cyclospora is available here.