Cyclospora is in the news because 285 people in the United States, residents of 11 states, have become ill. New Jersey is one of the 11 states affected. At this time NJ has less than 10 cases. Cyclospora is usually spread through food or water, but at this time no food items have been implicated. There are no common foods or gatherings associated with these cases. Because Cyclospora has been linked to produce, such as fruits and vegetables in the past, the recommendation is to thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables before eating them to prevent possible illness.
What is Cyclospora?
- It is a parasite composed of one cell too small to be seen even with a microscope. This parasite causes an intestinal infection called cyclosporiasis.
How is it spread?
- It is spread by people eating or drinking something that was contaminated with stool. It needs time, sometimes days to weeks, after being passed in a bowel movement to become infectious for another person. It is unlikely to be passed directly from one person to another.
What are the symptoms?
- It takes about 1 week from getting infected and then becoming sick. It infects the small intestine and usually causes a 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. Other flu-like symptoms may be noted.
How long can the symptoms last?
- If not treated, the illness may last from a few days to a month or longer. Symptoms may go away and then return one or more times. It is common to feel very tired.
What should I do if I think I may be infected with Cyclospora?
- See your health care provider. If Cyclospora is diagnosed it can be treated with a combination of two antibiotics.
How is Cyclospora infection prevented?
- Avoiding food or water that might have been contaminated with stool may help prevent this infection. Washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly may prevent illness if the source is fruits and vegetables.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/cyclosporiasis/outbreaks/investigation-2013.html