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Exact cause of cyclospora outbreak still unknown

Readers of this blog are urged to keep their eyes on this news this month for answers about the outbreak of cyclospora breaking out across the United States. More than 400 people have already become sickened by the food-borne illness across 16 states. While investigators from the Food and Drug Administration had determined that some of the cases were a result of eating contaminated salad mixes served at Olive Gardens and Red Lobster in Iowa and Nebraska, the causes in other states have not been determined.

Although no cases of infection have been reported in California at this time, there is still a chance that people here can get infected. Having travelled or travelling to any of the 16 states where outbreaks have been reported is one way of increasing your risk of contamination. Because investigators from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the FDA cannot confirm that the outbreaks are related, it’s difficult for an accurate safety warning to be issued on contaminated products. This can be not only frustrating to investigators but to sick victims who may want to know who to hold accountable for the dangerous products.

For those unfamiliar with cyclospora, it is a single-celled parasite that can cause symptoms similar to the flu. The main difference between the flu and a cyclospora infection is that the food-borne illness can last for several weeks to a month, according to the CDC. The infection must be treated with antibiotics and can be fatal to infant children and elderly people because of the threat of dehydration due to diarrhea.

Although a majority of the cases appear to be concentrated in the Midwest, the CDC admits that it’s hard to tell at this time if the infection is still spreading. Though most of the patients already confirmed to have contracted cyclospora became ill from mid-June to early July, if a source is not found for the contamination, more people could become infected in the coming weeks and months.

Source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "Investigation of an Outbreak of Cyclosporiasis in the United States," Press Release, Aug. 5, 2013

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