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Texas State Health Officials Warn of Dangerous Parasite Found in Fruits and Vegetables

fresh produce
Credit: Jupiterimages

Texas state health officials have issued a health warning for the state.

The Texas Department of State Health Services says that 42 cases of cyclospora infection, or cyclosporiasis, have been reported in Texas within the past week. Cyclospora is a parasite that causes intestinal infection from consuming food or water that has been contaminated with feces. Officials say such infections are not uncommon during the summer months.

Symptoms of infection begin seven days after ingestion of the parasite.  Symptoms include watery diarrhea, loss of appetite, stomach cramps, nausea, fatigue, low grade fever and other flu-like symptoms. Left untreated, symptoms may last a few weeks to a month or longer. Direct person-to-person transmission is unlikely. Should you experience symptoms, please see your doctor right away.

A common exposure source for this increase in cases has yet been identified.  Past outbreaks in the U.S. have been associated with consumption of imported fresh produce including:Fresh cilantro

  • Pre-packaged salad mix
  • Raspberries
  • Basil
  • Snow peas
  • Mesclun lettuce.

Thorough washing of fresh produce before eating can help reduce the risk of cyclosporiasis and other foodborne illnesses; however, washing may not completely eliminate the risk of transmission since Cyclospora can be difficult to wash off.  Always refrigerate perishable food within two hours; one hour at temperatures above 90 degrees.  Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw produce and be sure to disinfect food prep surfaces as well.

For more information, please contact the Health District at 940.761.7697. Additional information regarding Cyclospora is available here on the CDC website.

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