Courtesy CDCThe microscopic cyclospora parasite can cause infections that last up to three months in healthy people and more than a year in the very old, the very young or people with compromised immune systems, according to public health officials. (UPDATED COVERAGE, July 31) Although they stand by their belief that a cyclospora parasite outbreak is linked to packaged salad, public health officials in Iowa say state law prohibits them from releasing the names of produce companies, restaurants or retailers that may have sold the suspect produce.
“Iowa Code Section 139A.3(2)’c’ requires IDPH (Iowa Department of Public Health) to prevent the identification of any business involved in a disease outbreak, and authorizes release of the identity of a business to the public only ‘when the state epidemiologist or director of public health determines such a release of information is necessary for the protection of the public,’ ” according to a July 31 statement from the department.
“Because the vast majority of illnesses occurred in mid-June and the limited shelf life of fresh produce, IDPH and DIA (the Department of Investigation and Appeals) determined the implicated salad mix was no longer in the Iowa food supply chain. Thus, there is no ongoing threat to the public health which would require the identification of a particular brand, store, or restaurant where the salad mixture was available. In addition, these sites could not have taken any action to prevent contamination of the mixture since it came prepackaged and ready to eat.”
Iowa officials, along with those in Nebraska, Texas and several other states, have consistently encouraged consumers to continue consuming fresh produce — including packaged salads — since they began reporting the cyclospora infections.
Courtesy CDCThe CDC reports some of the cases of cyclospora infections may be linked to travel outside of the state where the sick people live. Iowa and Nebraska health officials said July 30 they linked a nationally distributed packaged salad mix to the outbreaks in their states, which have sickened 223 people.
Almost 400 people across 15 states are confirmed with the parasite, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but federal officials say the outbreaks might not be related.
The Iowa public health investigators said patient interviews and traceback efforts have “determined that at least 80% of these cases (in Iowa) had been exposed to the same prepackaged salad mix.”
“Our investigation implicated prepackaged, prewashed, salad mix as the cause of this outbreak,” said Nebraska’s chief medical officer, Joseph Acierno, in an online update.