Harris County Public Health (HCPH), the Houston Health Department and Fort Bend County Health & Human Services, have received reports of an increased number of Cyclospora infections within their jurisdictions and urge people to use caution this summer while cooking and spending time outdoors.
Cyclospora is a non-life-threatening gastrointestinal illness caused by an intestinal parasite. This parasite causes an intestinal infection called cyclosporiasis. People can become infected by consuming contaminated food or water.
In Texas, increased cases of Cyclosporiasis tend to occur seasonally between the months of April and August and symptoms tend to appear between two to 14 days. Cases have been associated with the consumption of – but not limited to – fresh produce, including fresh cilantro, raspberries, basil, snow peas, and mesclun lettuce.
Most individuals recover with no significant health effect; however, those who are immunocompromised, infants, or elderly, may be more affected and potentially require hospitalization for treatment.
Cyclospora infects the small intestine (bowel) and usually causes watery diarrhea, with frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements. Other common symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps/pain, bloating, increased gas, nausea, and fatigue. Vomiting, body aches, headache, fever, and other flu-like symptoms may be noted.
Some people who are infected with Cyclospora do not have any symptoms. If not treated, the illness may last from a few days to a month or longer. Symptoms may seem to go away and then return one or more times (relapse). It’s common to feel very tired. It is important to note that the disease cannot be transmitted through direct person-to-person contact.
The health departments are investigating the cases and would like to remind people that some gastrointestinal illnesses can spread quickly, especially during the summer.
Here are some prevention tips:
• Wash your hands with soap and water thoroughly for at least 20 seconds before and after preparing food.
• Wash all fruits and vegetables before eating, cutting, or cooking.
• Wash all cutting boards, utensils, and surfaces to avoid cross-contamination.If you or a loved one experience any of these symptoms, please reach out to your healthcare provider.