Texas is now reporting 205 cases of cyclosporiasis, tops in the nation, as local, state and federal health officials continue investigating the outbreak of a stomach bug that has infected 504 people in 16 states.Most of the Texas cases have been reported in North Central Texas, with 34 in Tarrant County, according to Tarrant County Public Health.The food-borne illness has been reported in 34 Texas counties, including Dallas, Denton, Ellis, Hood, Johnson, Parker and Wise, said Chris Van Deusen, a spokesman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.“We are seeing cases across different areas of the state; there has not been a source we can point to at this time. We are still interviewing people to try and determine whether there is a single common issue or whether it is connected to the cases in other states,” he said.On July 30, health officials in Iowa and Nebraska determined that the outbreak in those states was linked to a prepackaged salad mix sold in restaurants. The Food and Drug Administration said the salad mixes were supplied by Taylor Farms de Mexico, a processor of food service salads.The FDA’s investigation has not implicated packages sold in grocery stores.The FDA and the supplier will conduct an environmental assessment of the firm’s processing facility in Mexico to try to learn the probable cause of the outbreak and identify ways to prevent a recurrence.The FDA is increasing its oversight of leafy green products exported to the U.S. from Mexico, the agency said.It is not clear whether cases reported from other states are part of the same outbreak, the FDA said.The illness, caused by a microscopic parasite, does not appear to be spread through person-to-person contact, according to the Texas health department. The intestinal infection can cause severe diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea and fatigue. Once identified through a laboratory test of a stool sample, cyclosporiasis can be treated with antibiotics, health officials say. Untreated, the symptoms can last up to six weeks.At least 30 people have reportedly been hospitalized in five states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC has dedicated a team of epidemiologists, laboratory scientists, statisticians and communicators to the work on the outbreak full time. It has deployed an epidemic intelligence service officer and a public health prevention service fellow to Texas to help with the epidemiological investigation.Protect yourselfTo avoid contamination, the CDC recommends washing fresh fruits and vegetables with running water, even if you plan to peel them. Produce with firm skin, such as potatoes or cucumbers, may require scrubbing with a brush while rinsing to remove all soil. Remove the outer leaves of leafy vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage before washing.Dry fruits and vegetables with a clean paper towel before preparing, cooking or eating.
Steve Campbell, 817-390-7981 Twitter: @stevecamp