Spike in cyclospora cases has doctors searching for source

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of State Health Services says it is trying to track down the source that is causing a spike in cyclospora cases this summer.

Within the past month, there have been 68 reported cases of cyclospora infection including cases in Travis County, Hays County and Williamson County. On Monday, the DSHS issued a health advisory recommending health care providers to test patients for the parasite cyclospora if they have diarrheal illness lasting more than a few days or diarrhea accompanied by severe loss of appetite or fatigue.

Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness caused by consuming contaminated water or food. Patients who contract cyclospora usually have watery diarrhea lasting a few days to a few months.

“We are starting now, the health departments will go out and interview people talk about, ‘OK, what have you had to eat in the last couple of weeks before you had this onset? Where were the restaurants you’ve been to? Where do you do your grocery shopping? Where else have you been? Is there somewhere you’ve been swimming’ because water can be in vehicle for this as well and through those interviews and gathering that information we look for commonalities,” said Chris Van Deusen, Spokesman for Texas Department of Health Services.

Although no common source has been identified by health officials, past outbreaks have been linked to imported fresh produce, including fresh cilantro, pre-packaged salad mix, raspberries, snow peas and mesclun greens. Thorough washing of produce is recommended, but may not eliminate the risk because cyclospora can be difficult to watch off.

“The problem with Cyclospora is it can take a very long time, symptoms can persist for weeks and months. People report having diarrhea for months and it can go and come back so that’s another thing. Maybe you’re having the symptoms for a couple of weeks and then it goes away that doesn’t mean it’s gone,” Van Deusen said.

The DSHS reports there were 148 reported cases of cyclosporiasis in Texas last year.

In the summer of 2015, Travis County had 50 cyclospora cases due to an outbreak across Texas.

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