Answers at Last in Texas Cyclospora Cases

Cyclospora infections in Texas tied to fresh cilantro in some cases during summer outbreak

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) This summer, several outbreaks of illness caused by the parasite Cyclospora swept across the US. Many of those illnesses occurred in Texas, and the infection source was unknown.

Now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has linked some of the Texas illnesses to cilantro produced in Mexico.

CDC recommended that the public enjoy fresh produce without worry but always take precautions in cleaning and handling food.

"Wash fresh produce thoroughly before eating."

Cyclospora is a single-celled parasite that causes infections in humans through contaminated food or water. According to CDC, common symptoms of cyclosporiasis, or infection with Cyclospora, include watery diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach pains, bloating, nausea, gas and fatigue.

Symptoms can linger anywhere from a few days to over a month, and may seem to go away only to reappear during a relapse period.

As of September 20, CDC had discovered 643 cases of cyclosporiasis in 25 states across the US. CDC reported that these illnesses were most likely separate outbreaks and that the outbreaks appear to have ended.

Cases in Iowa and Nebraska were tied to a salad mix produced by Taylor Farms de Mexico. But 278 of the infections occurred in Texas, which had previously had no discovered source.

CDC reported on Wednesday that investigations have tied at least some Texas illnesses to fresh cilantro produced in Puebla, Mexico. 

According to CDC, around 50 percent of ill patients interviewed in Texas reported eating fresh cilantro two to 14 days before becoming sick, a significantly higher amount than the 10 percent of cyclosporiasis patients who reported eating fresh cilantro in Iowa and Nebraska and the 27 percent of people surveyed in a comparative sample of healthy people from New Mexico. 

An investigation of a cluster of 30 patients who ate at one Mexican-style restaurant in Fort Bend County, Texas two to 14 days before they became ill also pointed to the fresh cilantro as a possible cause.

CDC noted that lettuce was not associated with cyclosporiasis in this investigation, and there were no ties to products from Taylor Farms de Mexico. The initial traceback results suggest that the cilantro originated in Puebla, Mexico.

A separate investigation that focused on four patients who became ill after shopping at a single grocery store in North Texas also indicated the cilantro as a likely cause.

"There is no evidence to suggest that contaminated salad mix from Taylor Farms de Mexico or contaminated fresh cilantro from Puebla, Mexico, is still on the market," CDC stressed.

"Consumers should continue to enjoy the health benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables as part of a well-balanced diet," CDC recommended.

However, CDC also recommended that consumers and retailers alike should follow proper handling techniques for produce. These techniques include washing produce thoroughly and cleaning kitchen surfaces and utensils. 

Review Date: 
October 24, 2013
Last Updated:
October 25, 2013