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Cyclospora Concerns, Officials Say Wash Produce

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Cyclospora. It's a tiny parasite that can be found on your raw fruits and vegetables. Eat infected food and health officials said you could experience severe diarrhea, lasting more than 50 days.

"The stomach cramps, the gas and so forth. It literally exhausts the individual," said Barbara Chadwick with Linn County Public Health.

At least six cases have been reported in Linn County, two in the last few days. Officials are trying to figure out the source. Until they do, you can reduce your risk of contraction by following a couple simple rules.

"Wash your hands, wash your fruits and vegetables," said Chadwick.

Hy-Vee Chef Jack Craft said washing raw produce before popping it in your mouth just makes sense.

"Well, it's very important. There's different micro-organisms that can be carried in on the fruit, residual pesticide," said Craft.

Craft said it's not very hard to get greens clean. All you need is cold water. First, wash your hands. Then, take your produce and run it under the tap. If the fruit or vegetable has a smooth surface, just rub it with your fingers.

For produce with a rougher surface, things like cantaloupe-- "It has a lot of small little indentations all over it, which can be something that can hold bacteria," said Craft. Use a produce brush, like a toothbrush to scrub the outside. For berries, wash them in a bowl.

There are soaps you can use for fruits and vegetables, too. But Craft said simple cold water works as well as anything.

"I don't think that there is any product out there that's guaranteed to take every single organism off the outside," said Craft.

Health officials said if you're having symptoms that last more than a few days, schedule an appointment with your doctor. Cyclospora could cause dehydration, dangerous when mixed with hot weather.