Rare parasite discovered in Iowa
The Iowa Department of Public Health, the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local public health agencies are investigating an outbreak of an intestinal illness caused by Cyclospora, a rare parasite.
As of Monday, 71 cases of Cyclospora infections had been reported to IDPH, including one in Van Buren County and one in Keokuk County; almost all have been identified through testing at the State Hygienic Lab. Linn County is reporting the most cases with 30, followed by Polk County with five. The other 69 counties are each reporting three or fewer cases.
“We haven’t seen anything go through our county yet,” said Jefferson County Health Department Director Chris Estle. “That doesn’t mean that it won’t.”
According to the IDPH, most people’s illness began in mid to late June, and at least one person has been hospitalized. Many people report still being ill with diarrhea and some have had relapses.
IDHP states specific treatment is available, but it is not typically used for more common diarrheal illnesses, and very specific laboratory testing not commonly ordered must be done to detect Cyclospora.
Additional cases have been identified in Nebraska and other Midwestern states. IDPH is coordinating the investigation with public health officials in those states.
The investigation is ongoing; no specific source of exposure has been identified. Fresh produce, such as fresh fruits and vegetables, have been implicated in previous outbreaks. Washing fresh produce is recommended; however, according to the IDPH, it can be very difficult to wash Cyclospora off all types of produce.
People become infected with Cyclospora by consuming food or water contaminated with the parasite, which causes a watery diarrhea that lasts an average of 57 days if untreated.
Symptoms of Cyclosporiasis include: watery diarrhea, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, bloating, increased gas, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches and low-grade fever.
“If someone is having ongoing diarrhea for more than a couple of days and is really tired, they should go see their health care provider for testing and get put on the right medicine,” said Estle.
For more information, visit the website www.idph.state.ia.us/Cade/diseaseIndex.aspx?disease=Cyclospora.