Blog | Monday, September 23, 2013

Cyclosporiasis outbreak sickens hundreds

Cyclosporiasis is the name of the intestinal illness caused by the single-celled microscopic parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis. It is spread through ingestion of food or water contaminated by stool. (Oh, sorry. I hope you’re not reading this over lunch.) In the U.S., outbreaks of cyclosporiasis have usually been linked to contaminated imported fresh produce. It is not spread directly through contact from person to person.

The onset of the illness occurs about seven days after ingestion of contaminated food or water. Typical symptoms include prolonged watery diarrhea, abdominal cramping and nausea. Cyclosporiasis is treatable with antibiotics, although most people with healthy immune systems recover without treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are investigating a recent outbreak of cyclosporiasis that has so far sickened 285 people in 11 states. (California is not among them.) Most of the illnesses started between mid-June through early July. 18 of the patients have been hospitalized. There have been no deaths.

The source of the outbreak has not yet been identified, though the investigation is ongoing.

Why am I bringing this to your attention? Just as an excuse to remind you to wash your hands and food preparation surfaces with hot soapy water before handling food, and to wash fresh produce thoroughly before eating it.

Learn more:
U.S. Health Officials Still Tracking Source of Stomach Bug Outbreak (US News)
Investigation of an Outbreak of Cyclosporiasis in the United States (CDC)
Parasites – Cyclosporiasis (CDC)
FDA Investigates Multistate Outbreak of Cyclosporiasis (FDA)

Albert Fuchs, MD, FACP, graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles School of Medicine, where he also did his internal medicine training. Certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, Dr. Fuchs spent three years as a full-time faculty member at UCLA School of Medicine before opening his private practice in Beverly Hills in 2000. Holding privileges at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, he is also an assistant clinical professor at UCLA's Department of Medicine. This post originally appeared at his blog.