Patricia Quinlisk, Iowa’s head epidemiologist and medical director of the state’s health department, said the Iowa Department of Investigations and Appeals is working to traceback individual ingredients in prepackaged salad mix, which she said has already been traced to one distributor.
“We are very confident that it’s still not in the supply chain,” Quinlisk said, “because the illness onset dates are all back at in June and very early July.”
Both Iowa and Nebraska officials said the salad mix contained iceberg and romaine lettuce, carrots and red cabbage.
Quinlisk said that Iowa’s daily count of patients continues to increase, though, because people who are have been sick for some time are just now being tested and diagnosed. Similar scenarios are playing out in the other 14 state with confirmed cases.
“The symptoms can hang on for a long time, months sometimes,” Quinlisk said.
The Food and Drug Administration has been working with state officials and the CDC since the rare parasite infections started being reported to the CDC June 28.
Iowa officials asked the federal agencies to take over the investigation in mid-July, but CDC and FDA officials said their agencies would not take the lead at least until a possible source was identified.
In an update July 30, the FDA reported what Iowa officials have found related to the salad mix, but did not indicate that the federal government would step in to take over the investigation. FDA did report it has dedicated seven people at its headquarters to investigate the outbreak.
“FDA is following the strongest leads provided by the states and has prioritized the ingredients of the salad mix identified by Iowa for the traceback investigation, but is following other leads as well,” according to FDA’s July 30 update.
The CDC reported July 31 that 378 confirmed cases of cyclospora parasite infection have been reported from 16 health departments: Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Wisconsin, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, New York City and Ohio.
CDC and state officials have said that the cyclospora parasite, which is a one-celled microscopic animal, is extremely rare in the U.S. It is endemic in tropical and subtropical regions of the world, and U.S. cases are generally linked to international travel, according to the federal agencies.
The FDA has consistently reported that the outbreaks are possibly linked to an undetermined food source. The CDC and state health agencies have reported that previous U.S. cyclospora outbreaks were linked to imported produce, such as a 1996 outbreak linked to fresh raspberries from Guatemala.