Fresh fruits and veggies may be to blame for stomach bug

A mysterious parasite causing flu-like symptoms has sickened more than 130 people in Iowa and Illinois.

The cause of this summer’s Cyclospora parasite outbreak is still unknown.  Previous outbreaks of illness caused by the rare parasite were associated with fresh fruits and vegetables.  Consuming contaminated food or water causes the infection.

Investigators are focused mostly on fresh vegetables as a possible source of the current outbreak.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported 134 cases of Cyclospora infection as of July 24, 2013.  Illinois health officials reported at least one person infected there, but health officials think the infection may have been acquired in another state.

The first cases were reported in mid- to late-June 2013.  Many people reported still being ill weeks after their initial symptoms.  Symptoms mirror the flu and include diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss, headaches, body aches and low-grade fever.

People with healthy immune systems don’t necessarily require specific treatment, although Cyclospora infection can be treated with antibiotics.  Untreated, symptoms of the infection can lost a month or longer.

Health officials say you should always wash fresh produce.  Anyone with symptoms of Cyclospora infection should seek medical attention.

Overall, the Centers for Disease Control said at least 275 people were infected and that 10 of those patients required hospitalization.