Since June 28, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was notified of two lab-confirmed cases of cyclosporiasis in Iowa in persons with no history of International travel. Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness caused by a microscopic parasite.
As of July 27, there have been 285 confirmed cases of this food-borne illness in 11 states, including Georgia. People get the parasite by eating foods with the sporulated oocysts, which is the infective form of the parasite. It may take from three to 14 days before symptoms occur, with the average being seven.
Symptoms include: watery diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, cramps, bloating and gas, nausea, fatigue and possible fever.
The most common nations where the parasite exists are in tropical or sub-tropical regions. The foods most likely imported from these regions include raspberries, basil, snow peas and lettuce. Foods cleaned by the use of chlorine or iodine will not kill the parasite.
All produce should be cleaned before eating, no matter where it was grown. A vinegar and water bath will kill 99 percent of bacteria.
The bigger issue in this incident of food-borne illness is where these foods were produced. Always read the labels on all foods purchased in conventional stores. As much as possible, seek out locally-grown produce. Before purchasing imported foods, do a little homework and learn a few things about the country of origin.
Avoid countries with poorly-built sewer systems and countries that basically don’t have a sewer system. Research a country’s water source. Many countries allow their sewer to drain directly into their source of water. A few of these countries are Bangladesh, Argentina, parts of China, Brazil, Japan, Philippines and India.
Check the barcode on all imported produce, as well as other imported foods. The barcode gives the state, nation or region where the food was actually grown. Don’t be fooled by so-called American companies who distribute the foods. The barcode doesn’t lie or skirt the issue.
The intestinal illness caused by the cyclosporiasis parasite can last anywhere from a few days, up to a month. See a physician if the symptoms are severe. The very young, elderly and those with poor immune systems may need to be hospitalized if dehydration occurs. No treatment is usually given, but only one antibiotic works on ridding the body of the parasite.
If illness occurs, drink plenty of fluids. Ginger tea will help with nausea and unsweetened blackberry juice will help reduce the severity of the diarrhea.
To cut the risk of picking up this parasite, grow the imported foods mentioned above. Berries and herbs grow well in North Georgia. Check local farmer’s markets for cleaner produce and always clean before eating. The parasite is spread by people who don’t properly, or don’t at all, wash their hands after using the bathroom.