New Cyclospora Outbreak in Austin, Texas
The city of Austin, Texas, is currently investigating a Cyclospora outbreak with no known source. The earliest case of cyclosporiasis, the infection caused by the parasite Cyclospora, was reported on June 1, and as of August 5, 82 cases have been reported to epidemiologists at the Austin Public Health (APH) agency. Chief Epidemiologist of APH, Janet Pichette, advises all residents in the Austin-Travis county area to remain vigilant of foodborne illnesses, including cyclosporiasis, even in the midst of the pandemic. She urges consumers to, “thoroughly wash fresh produce, wash your hands after handling fruits and vegetables, and separate produce from raw meat and seafood,” in hopes of destroying any and all Cyclospora parasites. The Midwest United States recently went through a Cyclospora outbreak with bagged salads from Fresh Express, which caused 641 cases and 37 hospitalizations in 11 states. Previous outbreaks in the United States have been caused by fresh vegetables and fruits, such as basil, raspberries, lettuce, and cilantro.
According to Cyclospora lawyer Ron Simon, not identifying a source immediately is common, adding:
“This Cyclospora outbreak comes on the heels of several major Cyclospora outbreaks, including the Del Monte vegetable tray Cyclospora Outbreak of 2018, the McDonald’s salad Cyclospora Outbreak of 2018, and the Fresh Express Cyclospora Outbreak of 2020. We anticipate finding the source, eventually, so victims can file for compensation.”
Cyclospora cayetanensis is a microscopic parasite that causes the foodborne illness cyclosporiasis. Cyclosporiasis is most commonly passed through food and water that has become infected by coming into contact with infected feces. Although cleanliness and sanitizing is recommended to avoid the parasite, rinsing and washing contaminated food rarely removes the parasite. Symptoms of cyclosporiasis mirror common food poisoning symptoms because the parasite infects the small bowel. These symptoms typically begin one week after ingesting the parasite and include watery and explosive diarrhea, cramping, nausea, vomiting, and other flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, headache, body aches, and fatigue. Some people infected with cyclospora report no symptoms, while others have reported relapses. Cyclosporiasis symptoms can last between a few days and a month or more if not treated. If you believe you are suffering from cyclosporiasis, contact your physician for treatment and testing.