15 states including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut report stomach parasite

July 29, 2013 1:56:07 PM PDT
More than 321 people in several states, including New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, have come down with a stomach bug that could be linked to foodborne illness.

Top health officials continue searching for the source of the multi-state outbreak. The stomach bug has sickened 285 people in nine states since June.

The latest map from the CDC shows most cases in the central United States, but there's at least one confirmed case each in New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

The infection is called cyclosporiasis, caused by the Cyclospora parasite that often leads to watery diarrhea if ingested.

"People can get bloating, vomiting, low grade fevers as well and if it's not diagnosed you can get a fatigue syndrome afterwards," Dr. Steven Gordon, Chairman Infectious Disease at the Cleveland Clinic, said.

Unlike typical food poisoning, symptoms of cyclosporiasis take a week to start and last for more than a month.

"A human has to drink or eat contaminated food or water that's contaminated with infective oocyst of this parasite," Gordon said.

The Cyclospora parasite is commonly found in tropical countries, putting travelers at risk, but most outbreaks in the U.S. have been linked to produce imported from those regions - basil, raspberries, mesclun lettuce and snowpeas. If diagnosed, a cyclosporiasis infection can be treated with antibiotics.

Health officials are still trying to figure out if the infections are all caused by the same food source and, if so, what is it.

An ongoing investigation by the Iowa Department of Health indicates that fresh vegetables, not fruit, may be the source.

Until they figure out which vegetable, the message, as always, is to thoroughly scrub and wash all your fresh produce.

It's not clear if washing alone will kill the Cyclospora cysts, but it can lessen the number of cysts and other bacteria, and it's the best we can do.

For more information, please click here to visit the Centers for Disease Control online.