Health & Fitness

July 22, 2014

Tarrant residents urged to wash produce to prevent cyclosporiasis

Cases of cyclosporiasis, which can cause prolonged diarrhea and other problems, have surged across Tarrant County and Texas in the last month.

Public health officials are warning residents to wash fruits and vegetables — even if they are prepackaged and come with claims that they have been pre-washed — because eight cases of cyclosporiasis have been reported in Tarrant County.

Ann Salyer-Caldwell, interim director of Tarrant County Public Health, said officials are encouraging physicians and other healthcare providers to test for cyclosporiasis if patients have had diarrhea that lasts more than a few days.

“It always increases in the summer,” said Salyer-Caldwell during a briefing for Tarrant County commissioners. “We have not been able to find a reason or a common source for it. ...”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness caused by the microscopic parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis.

Within the past month, 61 cases of cyclosporiasis infection have been reported to the Texas Department of State Health Services. Symptoms usually begin two to 14 days after ingestion of contaminated food or water.

For some, diarrhea can last weeks or even months with some relapses. Others symptoms can be anorexia, fatigue, weight loss, abdominal cramps, bloating, increased gas, nausea, vomiting and low-grade fever. The illness can be treated with antibiotics.

Prepackaged salads and herbs, including cilantro, need special attention. Sayler-Caldwell said there was an increase in cyclosporiasis last summer and no one source was found.

“I realize they do say ‘pre-washed, ready to serve,’ but you never know,” Salyer-Caldwell said. “...  It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram

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