Officials Investigate Cause of Cyclospora Infections & Pinpoint Vegetables as Likely Cause

By Jill Kasparie, Reporter

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The number of confirmed cases of the nasty parasite, Cyclospora, continues to climb.

State health officials say there are now 71 cases statewide. A new report out today shows Linn County has the most with 30 reported illnesses. If untreated, diarrhea and stomach pains can last up to two months, sometimes even longer.

Health officials believe vegetables are carrying the parasite, and you put yourself at risk if you don't clean them correctly.

Linn County Public Health officials said there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Newly reported cases are slowing down quite a bit. They say it doesn't appear people are still getting sick, instead they've been sick for a while and are seeing the news and getting tested.

Right now, health leaders across the state are turning their attention to figure out what everyone wants to know: Where did the Cyclospora come from?

"Yeah, I don't understand where that'd be coming from. I really don't," Morrison said.

Shari Morrison has her hands full selling produce at the Noelridge Farmers Market in Cedar Rapids. She's been watching the news on the outbreaks. Through it all, the Shellsburg woman is positive about one thing.

"I know I don't have it because we wash everything," Morrison said.

Public health teams are working to find out exactly where the Cyclospora is coming from.

"It has a lot of people scratching their head," said Linn County Public Health's Barbara Chadwick.

Chadwick said a team of investigators believe they have the list of culprits narrowed down to a few vegetables.

"Fresh vegetables that would typically be in a salad. It's not the frozen or canned varieties," Chadwick said.

Linn County Public Health nurses are asking a lot of questions to those who are sick to help out.

"It's a lot of phone calls," said Heather Meador.

Most confirmed cases show people became ill sometime in mid to late June. It usually takes at least a week for symptoms to show up and even longer before they realize they're sick.

"It's hard for some of these patients to remember exactly what they ate so many weeks ago and that's part of the problem too," Meador said.

As public health workers continue to look for a cause, they said not to stop supporting people at the local farmers market.

"It most likely did not come from a farmer's market; it most likely didn't come from anybody's home garden. So go out to your farmers market, get your fruits, get your veggies, enjoy them but wash them first," Meador said.

The Iowa Department of Public Health, the State Hygienic Lab, public health departments and Centers for Disease Control are helping with the investigation.
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