Scientists at the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are searching for answers as more than 200 people in the United States have become sick with a rare stomach bug. While the cause of the bug appears to be a cyclospora infection, the potential impact of the outbreak remains unknown.
The infection came to light on June 28 after two Iowans exhibited symptoms of the cyclospora infection. The stomach bug infects the bowel and causes symptoms of diarrhea, stomach pain, and other flu-like symptoms lasting anywhere from a few weeks to a few months. The cases reported no recent international travel, leaving the scientists to investigate other modes of contamination. The cyclospora infection is typically contracted in tropical countries, causing concern as this outbreak originated stateside. Food outbreaks related to imported food are becoming more common in the U.S. according to the CDC, causing reason for the public to take concern and increase preventative measures.
Throughout the summer, 285 people across 11 states have contracted the parasite, leaving scientists scurrying to find answers before the infection spreads. Of the 11 states infected, Iowa has the most cases reported with 138, followed by Nebraska with 70, and Texas with 66. While the outbreak has only touched 11 states, those traveling internationally should take extra precaution when coming in contact with food. Additionally, the public should avoid contaminated water sources to prevent contracting the bug.
While scientists know the symptoms of the parasite, the source of contamination remains uncertain. If the parasite originated stateside, food contamination or unsanitary irrigation systems could be the cause. Additionally, scientists are determining whether the cases are connected, as stated in a press release they are unsure “whether the cases from all of the states are part of the same outbreak.” The CDC is currently working in conjunction with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to determine the possible origin of the outbreak.
Until the origin of the outbreak can be identified, the public is left with standard provisions to prevent against infection. The CDC and FDA suggest thoroughly washing hands and all produce before eating, and avoiding contaminated water.
As the public awaits answers, these basic measures can prevent the summer from taking an ugly turn. However, if these symptoms last longer than three days, the public is advised to seek medical attention.