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Parasite Sickens Dozens Of People In Texas: Symptoms Of Cyclospora Infection

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At least 56 people in Texas have been sickened by the parasite Cyclospora since May. Past outbreaks were associated with consumption of fresh produce. How is this intestinal illness treated?


  ( Steve Buissinne | Pixabay )

Texas health officials have warned about an outbreak of illness that has so far sickened dozens of people in the lone star state.

More Than 50 Sickened By Cyclosporiasis Parasite

In a statement released on July 2, the Texas Department of State Health Services said that at least 56 people have been infected by parasite Cyclospora since May.

The agency also said that it is working with health departments around the state and in other states that experience the same outbreak to gather more information about the cases and find out if the infections have a common source.

Past outbreaks in the United States were linked to consumption of imported fresh produce, such as fresh pre-packaged salad mix, basil, raspberries, snow peas, and mesclun green.

Symptoms Of Cyclosporiasis Infection

Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness often caused by consuming food or water contaminated by the Cyclospora parasite.

The main symptom of infection is watery diarrhea lasting from a few days to as long as a few months. Other symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, loss of appetite, bloating, abdominal cramps, increased gas, vomiting, nausea, and low fever. The symptoms may also come and go many times over weeks or months.

Diagnosis

The U.S Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that health care providers need to examine stool samples that may require special lab tests to diagnose an infection.

"Your healthcare provider should specifically request testing for this parasite. And more than one stool sample from different days might be needed," the CDC said. "Your healthcare provider also might have your stool checked for other organisms that can cause similar symptoms.

Treatment

The DSHS said that people who show potential symptoms of cyclosporiasis should seek treatment from their health care provider. Health care providers are also asked to test patients who have been suffering from diarrhea lasting for more than a few days, or diarrhea that comes with fatigue and severe loss of appetite.

"Health care providers should promptly report cases so that public health can investigate them and attempt to determine the source in order to head off future cases," the agency said.

The illness is treated with the antibiotic trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole. Patients are also encouraged to rest and take plenty of fluid.

Health authorities urge the public to observe safe food and water habits. Thoroughly washing fresh produce is also recommended, although, this does not eliminate risk. Cooking is known to kill the parasite.

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