At Least 100 Sickened in Cyclosporiasis Outbreak

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100_sickened_cyclosporiasis_contaminationAn outbreak of the foodborne illness cyclosporiasis has sickened more than 100 people in Iowa and Nebraska.

On Monday, the Iowa Department of Public Health reported that at least 71 cases of cyclosporiasis have been reported in the state, according to CBS News. Nebraska reports 35 cases of cyclosporiasis, which CBS News in Lincoln, Nebraska reports is likely a related outbreak.

Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness caused by the cyclospora parasite. People become ill after ingesting contaminated food or water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), common symptoms include watery diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, cramping, bloating, gas, nausea and fatigue. Vomiting and low-grade fever sometimes occur. The illness can last up to two months and patients sometimes relapse after starting to get better.  The standard treatment is the combination antibiotic trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (TMP/SMX), sold under the trade names Bactrim, Septra, and Cotrim.

While the source of the current outbreak has not yet been identified, cyclosporiasis is often traced to fresh fruits and vegetables, the health department said. The outbreak began in mid to late June, with many people reporting they are still ill or have suffered relapses, according to CBS News.

Since the mid-1990s, according to the CDC, cyclosporiasis outbreaks in the U.S. have been linked to imported fresh produce, including raspberries, basil, snow peas, and mesclun lettuce.  No commercially frozen or canned produce has been implicated.

The CDC estimates that each year about 1 in 6 Americans (or 48 million people) get sick with foodborne illnesses, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die of foodborne diseases. Children under five, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems are more likely to suffer the most serious illnesses.