The Centers for Disease Control and local health departments are working as hard as they can to pinpoint where in the world a parasite came from, that is sickening people across the country.
Cyclospora Cayetanensis, is a parasite found in tropical regions. So far in the U.S., there are over 320 confirmed cases, spanning 14 states and New York City. Texas has the second highest number of cases and now there's one in Wichita County.
Cyclospora has sparked investigations in health departments all over the U.S. And with the C.D.C. For those that test positive, they have to answer 16 pages worth of questions, all to narrow down the origin of this possible food-born illness.
"They have not been able to narrow it down. So, all the states that are involved are doing pretty thorough investigations of the people that have come back positive with it," said Teressa Stephenson, Supervisor of Preventive Health Services at the Wichita Falls, Wichita County Health Department.
Stephenson said, there have been other outbreaks of this parasite in the past. Linking it to imported fresh produce and water from tropical regions.
"It's a parasite and it's found in infected feces. So people get it by ingesting. Typically, in the past it's been linked to imported produce," said Stephenson.
Causing intestinal infection, the symptoms can take a week to begin and last a few days to a month or more. But, the illness is curable with a trip to the doctor and some antibiotics.
Symptoms of Cyclospora include, "frequent episodes of watery diarrhea, a common symptom is fatigue, some people may have stomach cramps. Even more people may have, it's not as frequent but, they might have flu-like symptoms, so a fever. A low grade fever," said Stephenson.
The Health Department highly recommends washing your produce thoroughly. Larry Martin, General Manager for United Market Street agreed. He recommends always washing fresh produce even if it's bagged and using a little soap or vegetable wash as well. "The main thing is always wash your produce, whether it's fruit vegetables whatever. Before consuming, it's always best to wash them," said Martin.
Health Department officials want to caution residents, that washing produce still may not remove the parasite especially, because the origin is still unknown.
If you or someone you know is found to have the parasite. It's important to know that it is not spread through human contact like virus', so there is no risk is passing it on to others.