Iowa parasite infections linked to apple cider

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More than a dozen recent cases of cryptosporidiosis in Iowa have one thing in common – apple cider.

Officials in Johnson County blame unpasteurized apple cider for illness that hospitalized at least one person and sickened at least 11 people there.  It was not clear if a single supplier or vendor was involved.

More cases were reported across the state.

It is legal to sell unpasteurized apple cider, but the label must tell you it’s unpasteurized.  In general, health officials say it’s safer to drink pasteurized cider and juice because heat treatment during pasteurization can help rid beverages of many bacteria, including cryptosporidium, E. coli and Salmonella.

The Iowa Department of Public Health recommends boiling unpasteurized apple cider or heating it to at least 170 degrees Farenheit.

“Do not assume that because the juice is hot or bottled that it is safe for consumption. Complete pasteurization is necessary to kill organisms that have the potential to cause significant illness,” said a Facebook post from the IDPH.

“Always ask if you are unsure if a juice product is pasteurized or not,” said a post on the IDPH website.

Consumers cannot tell whether crypto is present by the taste, smell or appearance of the cider.

The IDPH reported hundreds of cases of crypto have happened across the state in 2013.   More than half of the counties in Iowa reported cases of crypto by early August.  Crypto illness is also commonly associated with swimming in contaminated water in summer.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website says some infected people have no symptoms at all.  The most common symptom of cryptosporidiosis is watery diarrhea.  Other symptoms include stomach cramps or pain, dehydration, nausea, vomiting, fever and weight loss.  Symptoms begin within a few days of being infected with the parasite, and last one to two weeks.