(RxWiki News) The rate of infection from the parasite Cyclospora (called cyclosporiasis) has been growing across the US this summer. In the past, the parasite has usually been associated with fresh produce, but officials are still investigating specific sources in the current outbreak.
Infection numbers have topped 600, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released new advice to consumers on how to protect themselves while sources remain unknown.
CDC recommended that consumers continue to enjoy fresh fruits and vegetables, but take precautions to wash, prepare and store produce properly.
"Wash all produce before eating. "
According to the latest counts from CDC (updated on August 23), 609 cases of cyclosporiasis have been reported across the US since June.
The infections have now been discovered in 22 states. Most of the patients became ill between mid-June and mid-July.
CDC reported that of the 471 cyclosporiasis patients for whom detailed information was known, 40 (9 percent) have been hospitalized. Zero deaths have been reported in connection with the Cyclospora outbreak.
As earlier reported, it was determined that infections in Nebraska and Iowa were related to a salad mix produced by Taylor Farms de Mexico and sold in Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants.
"Investigations are ongoing to determine whether this conclusion applies to, or helps explain, the increase in ill persons with cyclosporiasis in other states," reported CDC, which noted that it is still not clear if all of the US illnesses are a part of a single outbreak or if multiple outbreaks have occurred.
In newly released advice to consumers, CDC stressed the importance of eating a balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables, despite concerns about the outbreak and historical connections between Cyclospora and fresh produce.
However, CDC also stressed the importance of always following safe handling procedures when dealing with fruits and vegetables, particularly in terms of washing, preparing and storing these items.
Proper handling includes washing hands thoroughly with warm water and soap before handling produce, as well as carefully washing kitchen surfaces and utensils.
Fruits and vegetables themselves should also be washed thoroughly under running water before they are cut, cooked or eaten. CDC also recommended scrubbing firmer produce with a clean produce brush and cutting away damaged or bruised areas before consuming.
"Fruits and vegetables that are labeled 'prewashed' do not need to be washed again at home," CDC noted.
CDC recommended that cut, peeled or cooked produce be refrigerated as soon as possible, or at least within two hours.
People who think they might have eaten contaminated food should contact their doctor. Symptoms of cyclosporiasis include watery diarrhea, loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue and cramping.