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Texas Cyclospora Outbreak Sickens 160, Investigators Search For Food Poisoning Cause

Health officials in Texas are investigating an outbreak of cyclospora, which has sicked at least 160 people, and may be a case of food poisoning, although the source has not been identified. 

The rising number of Texas cyclospora poisoning cases was first detected last month, resulting in an investigation by the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and local officials.

On August 1, the DHSH issued an update to the investigation, indicating that the number of illnesses have been increasing since mid-June.

Cyclospora is a long-lasting illness caused by a parasite. Symptoms include watery diarrhea, loss of appetite, and fatigue. Since June, there have been 42 cases recorded in Harris County, 23 in Bexar County, 14 in Tarrant County, and 10 case s in Dallas and Travis. A number of other counties have had cases in the low single digits.

“Past outbreaks have been associated with imported fresh produce, and disease investigators are busy gathering information about the current illnesses as they attempt to determine whether there is a common source for the current outbreak,” the DSHS update indicates. “DSHS will update the 2017 count of Cyclospora cases here on Tuesdays and Fridays during the outbreak.”

About two cyclospora outbreaks occur each year, but they are usually restricted to an average of 21 illnesses. There were 148 cases recorded throughout the entire year of 2016. This outbreak has affected 160 people in less than two months.

The cause of the outbreaks are only discovered about half the time, and are usually linked to salads, lettuce, raspberries or contaminated water. A number of outbreaks in Texas, specifically, have been linked to imported cilantro, investigators noted.

The DSHS first issued a health advisory on July 17. It is asking health care providers to report confirmed cases of cyclospora so that the cases can be investigated, increasing the odds of determining the cause of the outbreak.

Health officials also recommend that consumers thoroughly wash all fresh produce, but warn that washing is often not enough to kill the parasite that causes cyclospora. It also notes that cooking will kill the parasite and that the illness cannot be transmitted directly from person to person.

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