Courtesy CDCThe source of rare microscopic cyclospora parasites responsible for almost 300 illnesses in at least 11 states remains a mystery as federal, state and local health officials interview patients to determine a possible common denominator.(UPDATED COVERAGE, July 26) The Food and Drug Administration says cyclospora parasite infections in 321 people across 15 states are “possibly linked to undetermined food products,” a departure from the assumptions of state health officials who said the pests are usually spread via fresh produce.
Officials with the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say the health agencies in the 15 states are still leading the investigation, however.
No potential source had been identified as of the July 26 updates posted by FDA and CDC. The CDC was first notified June 28 by Iowa health officials of confirmed cases there. The FDA reports the illnesses are “possibly linked to undetermined food products.”
“Cyclospora needs time — days to weeks — after being passed in a bowel movement to become infectious for another person. Therefore, it is unlikely that cyclospora is passed directly from one person to another,” according to the FDA update.
Both FDA and CDC report the parasite is rare in the U.S. but common in tropical and subtropical countries. Infection is spread when people ingest food or water contaminated with the parasite, but agency officials have said it is not known how food or water becomes contaminated.
Some state and federal health officials have said the parasite is believed to be spread most often via fresh produce. However, that assessment is not based on any evidence from the current illnesses.
“Previous outbreak investigations have implicated various types of fresh produce. It is not yet clear whether the cases from all of the states are part of the same outbreak,” according to the CDC’s update.
As of July 26, the CDC reported infections in Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Florida, New York, Wisconsin, Georgia, Missouri, Arkansas, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Jersey, Ohio, Illinois and Kansas. No deaths have been reported, but at least 18 people have been admitted to hospitals.