Cyclospora: Terrifying Salad-Mix Parasite Can Give You Diarrhea for 57 Days

cyclospora outbreak salad parasite

A store worker removes bags of salad mix (Getty Images)

A food-borne parasite, known as cyclospora, has been terrorizing people in 15 U.S. states. The FDA, along with local and state Health and Safety agencies, is attempting to tackle the issue, which has affected more than 400 people nationwide. Here are five fast facts you need to know about the outbreak, and whether you’re in danger.

1. Cyclospora is a Food-Borne Parasite

cyclospora outbreak

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According to a CBS report, cyclospora is a parasite that causes cyclosporiasis, an intestinal disease. The parasite is food-borne and is also often found in fecal-contaminated water. It was relatively unknown before 1990, and has been on the rise ever since. The symptoms of this bug are pretty harsh, according to Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventative medicine at Vanderbilt University:

“[Cyclospora is a] tenacious critter because it can produce a prolonged, watery, very uncomfortable diarrhea” in addition to other symptoms like cramping, bloating, gas, nausea and fatigue.

To add to the bad news, according to Iowa health officials, the diarrhea can last up to 57 days.

The good news is that the parasite is highly unlikely to pass from person to person.

2. Cyclospora Has Been Found in 15 States

lettuce, field, farm

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This cyclospora outbreak has been found in 15 states: Iowa, Texas, Nebraska, Florida, Wisconsin, Illinois, Georgia, Missouri, Arkansas, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Ohio.

Iowa has reported 143 cases, more than any other state.

3. Salad Mix is the Culprit

Margaret Hamburg, FDA

Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Margaret Hamburg (Getty Images)

The US Food and Drug Administration has begun looking into the issue, according to a statement released Tuesday:

FDA is following the strongest leads provided by the states and has prioritized the ingredients of the salad mix identified by Iowa for the traceback investigation, but is following other leads as well.

CBS has reported that Iowa’s Department of Public Health has pinpointed a brand of prepackaged salad mix, which has caused 80 percent of that state’s cases. They say it is no longer in the state’s food supply. The state agency did not name the company and it is not known if it connected to all other cases in the U.S.

The Nebraska health officials have said that the salad in question includes iceberg and romaine lettuce, red cabbage and carrots. The produce came through national distribution chains, according to Yahoo News.

The FDA have acknowledged these findings and are also looking for other possible sources for the outbreak.

The biggest challenge for authorities is that the illness does not manifest into symptoms until a week after consumption.

4. It May Be Unpreventable — So WASH Your Salad Before Eating

wash, cucumber

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Well, the bad news is that this parasite may be unpreventable. According to a Fox News report, all foods have the potential to be exposed to these kinds of safety hazards, even natural or organic labels. It can happen anywhere — on the farm, in transit, or even in the store.

What you can do is make sure you wash all of your fresh produce before you eat it. Don’t forget to also wash your hands, cookware, and cooking surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after handling food.

5. FDA Proposed New Regulations on Imported Food Last Week

farm, lettuce, workers, field

Workers load up a truck with boxed lettuce. (Getty)

With convenient timing, the FDA proposed two new rules to make it harder for sub-par imported foods to enter the country last week. According to CBS, the proposed rules will require importers to vouch that the producer of their goods are using modern preventative food safety practices. They are also responsible for identifying specific safety hazards that are likely to occur with their imported product, and take responsibility for if those problems do arise.

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