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More Than 200 Infected with Cyclospora Parasite in Midwest

Jul 23, 2013 01:12 PM EDT

A multi-agency investigation is underway after an outbreak of the intestinal illness cyclospora has been documented in several Midwestern states.

Officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local authorities are involved in the investigation, which involved more than 200 cases of cyclospora infection in Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Wisconsin and Illinois, the FDA reported.

At least eight people have been hospitalized, according to the CDC.

Cyclospora is an intestinal illness caused by the microscopic parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis. People may become infected with cyclospora after consuming food or water contaminated with the parasite, according to the CDC. The FDA reports the parasite is unlikely to be transmitted from one person to another, which suggests that those infected consumed a contaminated food or beverage.

Previous cyclospora outbreaks have been attributed to contamination in various types of fresh produce, according to the CDC.

The source of the outbreak has yet to be determined, as is whether the outbreak come from more than one source. As of July 18, the CDC has been notified of more than 200 cases in four states. The one case reported in Illinois may have been acquired out of state.

It typically takes about one week between being infected with cyclospora and the first signs of symptoms. The parasite infects the small intestine and "usually causes watery diarrhea, with frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements," according to the FDA.

Other symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramping or bloating, flatulence, fatigue, and in some cases vomiting, headache, fever and other flu-like symptoms are observed.

Some people infected with the parasite do not show any symptoms. If untreated, a cyclospora infection can last more than a month. It it typical for the infected to observe their symptoms going away and later relapsing.

The FDA and CDC have both reported that they will make more information about the cyclospora outbreak public as it becomes available.

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