Two People In O’Brien County Among 22 Cases Of Rare Parasites In Iowa

Date posted - July 8, 2013

Iowa Department of Public Health IDPHDes Moines, Iowa — Two people in O’Brien County are among 22 being treated in Iowa for a rare intestinal parasite.

The Iowa Department of Public Health, CDC and local public health agencies are investigating an outbreak of an intestinal illness caused by Cyclospora, which is a rare parasite. Twenty-two cases of Cyclospora infections have been reported to the state health department. Almost all have been identified through testing at the State Hygienic Lab.

In addition to the two people being treated in O’Brien County:

Linn County – 10 cases
Fayette County – 3 cases
Webster County – 2 cases
Benton County – 1 case
Des Moines County – 1 case
Mills County – 1 case
Polk County – 1 case
Van Buren County – 1 case

The illness in most of these cases began in mid to late June, and at least one person has been hospitalized. Many people report still being ill with diarrhea and some have had relapses.

Specific treatment is available (but it is not typically used for more common diarrheal illnesses). Also, very specific laboratory testing, which is not commonly ordered must be done to detect Cyclospora.

Additional cases have been identified in Nebraska and other Midwestern states. The Iowa Department of Public Health is coordinating the investigation with public health officials in those states. The investigation is ongoing; no specific source of exposure has been identified.
Fresh produce has been implicated in previous outbreaks. Washing fresh fruits and vegetables is recommended; however, it can be very difficult to wash Cyclospora off all types of produce.

People become infected with cyclospora by consuming food or water contaminated with the parasite, which causes a watery diarrhea that lasts an average of 57 days if untreated.

More information from the Iowa Department of Public Health:

Symptoms of cyclosporiasis include:
Watery diarrhea
Fatigue (severe tiredness)
Loss of appetite
Weight loss
Increased gas
Stomach cramps
Muscle aches
Low-grade fever

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