Cyclospora visualized by ultraviolet fluorescence microscopy. (Credit: CDC DPDx)

Cyclosporiasis is the name of the intestinal illness caused by the single-celled microscopic parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis. It is spread through ingestion of food or water contaminated by stool. (Oh, sorry. I hope you’re not reading this over lunch.) In the US, outbreaks of cyclosporiasis have usually been linked to contaminated imported fresh produce. It is not spread directly through contact from person to person.

The onset of the illness occurs about seven days after ingestion of contaminated food or water. Typical symptoms include prolonged watery diarrhea, abdominal cramping and nausea. Cyclosporiasis is treatable with antibiotics though most people with healthy immune systems recover without treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are investigating a recent outbreak of cyclosporiasis that has so far sickened 285 people in eleven states. (California is not among them.) Most of the illnesses started between mid-June through early July. 18 of the patients have been hospitalized. There have been no deaths.

The source of the outbreak has not yet been identified, though the investigation is ongoing.

Why am I bringing this to your attention? Just as an excuse to remind you to wash your hands and food preparation surfaces with hot soapy water before handling food, and to wash fresh produce thoroughly before eating it.

Learn more:

U.S. Health Officials Still Tracking Source of Stomach Bug Outbreak (US News)
Investigation of an Outbreak of Cyclosporiasis in the United States (CDC)
Parasites – Cyclosporiasis (CDC)
FDA Investigates Multistate Outbreak of Cyclosporiasis (FDA)