This week the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) confirmed two cases of cyclospora in Louisiana, one in Bienville Parish and one in Terrebonne Parish.
DHH has been in contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to share information about the cases, as the federal government is investigating a cyclospora outbreak. Nationwide, there have been 397 confirmed cases in 16 states.
"The best prevention is always to handle and prepare food in a manner that minimizes the presence of harmful germs," said Dr. Raoult Ratard, State Epidemiologist for DHH. "This includes washing fruits and vegetables before eating them. We also encourage people to wash their hands frequently throughout the day."
In Louisiana, one of the persons who became ill had eaten lettuce while in Texas. The other person did not report eating lettuce or salad. The onset of symptoms in the two Louisiana cases was early July, about the time of the peak of the national outbreak. Both cases were mild and did not require hospitalization.
Cyclosporiasis is a rare microscopic parasite, Cyclospora cayetanesis, which causes a lengthy gastrointestinal illness. People can become infected with Cyclospora by consuming food or water contaminated with the parasite. Those with the illness may have flu-like symptoms, severe diarrhea and nausea.
It typically takes around a week for someone who is infected with cyclospora to become ill. In addition to watery diarrhea, other common symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps or pain, bloating, increased gas and fatigue. Vomiting, body aches, headache, fever, and other flu-like symptoms may also be present.
People who believe they have the illness should see their doctors immediately for treatment.
Fresh vegetables and fruit are usually associated with cyclospora outbreaks. People become sick when they consume food contaminated with the parasite. Washing fruits and vegetables before eating them is always recommended to prevent the spread of disease.
For more information about cyclospora, visit the CDC's Website at http://www.cdc.gov/parasites/cyclosporiasis/