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What is Cyclospora?

Infections from the foodborne parasite, Cyclospora, have more than doubled since last year. Here’s how to know if you should get tested for Cyclosporiasis.

Food Safety News reported this week on a CDC advisory to healthcare providers. Right now, most doctors don’t test currently for Cyclospora, since it is pretty rare, but it’s becoming less so. Unfortunately, the CDC does not know what is causing the uptick in infections.

Related: Why It’s Important to Report Food Poisoning

According to the CDC, the number of Cyclosporiasis cases are already more than twice what were reported last year, and it’s only the beginning of August. August and September are peak months for Cyclosporiasis in the U.S., so they expect more cases to crop up in the next few weeks.

Symptoms of Cyclosporiasis

The CDC lists these common symptoms of Cyclosporiasis:

  • Watery diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Cramping
  • Bloating
  • Increased gas
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue

Diarrhea is the most common symptom. If you’ve been dealing with unexplained diarrhea that either comes and goes or has lasted for a while, talk to your doctor about getting tested for Cyclosporiasis. You may also experience vomiting or a low fever, if you are infected.

There are antibiotics that treat Cyclosporiasis, but the CDC says that healthy people can often beat the parasite on their own. It can last from a few days to more than a month. Like with many foodborne illnesses, it’s people with weak immune systems who have the highest risk for complications.

How to Avoid Cyclospora

How to Avoid Cyclospora

You can get infected with Cyclospora by ingesting water or food that is contaminated with fecal matter. The CDC says, “Previous outbreaks in the United States have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce (e.g., basil, cilantro, mesclun lettuce, raspberries and snow peas). To date, no commercially frozen or canned produce has been implicated.”

The best way to deal with this outbreak is to develop good food safety habits:

  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water before cooking.
  • Keep food preparation surfaces clean, washing between uses.
  • Wash fruits and veggies in water before you cook them, scrubbing hard produce—think cantaloupe or cucumber—if possible, with a brush.
  • Avoid cross-contamination. That means keeping fruits and vegetables away from raw animal products.

Unfortunately, you can’t control every bite of food that you eat, unless you want to cook all of your food from scratch, and don’t let this increase in infections keep you away from fresh fruits, veggies and herbs.

In 2016, there were 88 cases of Cyclosporiasis in the States. This year, there have been 206 reported cases so far. Percentage-wise, that is a lot more, but the odds are still pretty slim that you’ll become infected. If you do suspect that you’ve contracted a Cyclospora infection and it’s not going away on its own, your doctor can help.

Related at Care2

Infections from the foodborne parasite, Cyclospora, have more than doubled since last year. Here's how to know if you should get tested for Cyclosporiasis.

All images via Thinkstock.

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