Friday, June 29, 2018

Cyclosporiasis: A Summer Hazard to Your Health

By John T. Carlo, MD
Dallas Physician
Chair, Texas Public Health Coalition

Editor’s Note: This summer, MeAndMyDoctor is focusing on several health hazards that can put a damper on seasonal fun. This week we cover the potential dangers of cyclospora, a parasite that commonly sickens people in summer months. 

Summer’s heat entices us to eat fresh summer fruits and veggies, but these summertime delights can sometimes bring a decidedly undesirable plight — cyclosporiasis.

Texans, cyclosporiasis (an intestinal infection caused by a parasite) is not just a problem outside of the U.S., it’s becoming more and more common here, especially during summer.

Recent outbreaks of the disease in the U.S. have been due to contaminated fresh produce such as raspberries, basil, snow peas, mesclun lettuce, and cilantro. Cyclosporiasis can also occur after drinking water contaminated with feces.

Symptoms vary, with some infected people not having any symptoms at all. Others can experience significant symptoms including watery diarrhea, low-grade fever, vomiting, nausea, and fatigue. Special laboratory testing through your doctor’s office must be done in order to diagnose cyclosporiasis. More info on the test can be found here. Treatment for cyclosporiasis is typically trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole (known by the brand name Bactrim®).

Preventing infection is possible by taking such steps as washing all fresh produce, keeping up with any contamination or product recall notices, and avoiding drinking untreated water. As always, it’s best to check with your physician if you or your children experience systems which may indicate a cyclosporiasis infection. For more information, visit https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/cyclosporiasis/index.html.

Physicians and other health care providers should consider cyclosporiasis infection in patients experiencing watery diarrhea that lasts more than a few days, relapses, or occurs along with a sudden lack of appetite or fatigue. Travel outside of the U.S. to areas known to have high rates of infection is an important risk factor, but many recent cases of cyclosporiasis have been reported without a recent history of travel.

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