Texas Now Leads 16 States In Cyclospora Outbreak; Local Cases Confirmed

An unsporulated oocyst, with undifferentiated cytoplasm, is shown (far left), next to a sporulating oocyst that contains two immature sporocysts (A). An oocyst that was mechanically ruptured has released one of its two sporocysts (B). One free sporocyst is shown as well as two free sporozoites, the infective stage of the parasite (C). Credit: CDC/DPDM.
An outbreak of a stomach parasite has now spread to 16 states. Texas now has the most confirmed cases of cyclospora, including a few cases locally. 

The cyclospora parasite causes severe diarrhea and other symptoms.

Usually it travels into the United States on imported fruits or vegetables – typically on produce like raspberries that are tough to wash.

Since late June, the CDC has found 467 cases nationwide.

outbreak map* Data is current as of 5pm EDT, 8/7/13. Click here for updated data.

There are 204 cases in Texas. Thirteen are in Fort Bend and six in Harris County.

Dr. Umair Shah is the health authority for Harris County.

He says investigators are still interviewing victims about things like: “where they might have eaten; what kinds of foods they eat; what kinds of restaurants they might go to — those kinds of things, to try to determine if there’s a pattern.”

In Iowa and Nebraska, investigators traced the illness to a salad mix served at Olive Garden and Red Lobster.

The salad mix came from a farm in Mexico.

But in Texas, state health officials say they don’t know yet if the salad mix is the cause here.

Cynthia Chappell studies infectious disease at the UT School of Public Health in Houston.

“This particular parasite, cyclospora, is very tough. It is passed as a cyst and that cyst has a very tough coat on it. And so it can survive while it’s sitting on that fruit waiting for the next host to come along and eat it.”

Chappell notes that cooking will kill the parasite, and washing fruits and vegetables should help.

Even if you do get infected, the illness often goes away on its own or is easily treated with antibiotics.

Bio photo of Carrie Feibel

Carrie Feibel

Health & Science Reporter

Carrie Feibel is KUHF's health and science reporter. She comes to Houston Public Radio after ten years as a print reporter...