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Health officials in Iowa, Nebraska point to salad mix as culprit, but CDC has not confirmed a source

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Aug. 2 (HealthDay News) -- The ongoing outbreak of infection with the foodborne cyclospora parasite has now reached 400 cases and spread to 16 states and New York City, according to the latest U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report issued Friday.

The source or sources of the nationwide outbreak has not yet been located, although health officials at two of the hardest-hit states, Iowa and Nebraska, say they have traced local outbreaks to an as-yet-unnamed salad mix.

In a posting on its website, the CDC said that it "will continue to work with federal, state and local partners in the investigation to determine whether this conclusion applies to the increase in cases of cyclosporiasis in other states. It is not yet clear whether the cases from all of the states are part of the same outbreak."

Prior outbreaks of cyclospora infection have typically been caused by tainted produce, the agency noted.

While no one has died from cyclosporiasis, "at least 22 persons reportedly have been hospitalized in five states," the CDC said. Most people got sick between mid-June through early July.

One expert said that while cyclospora can make people very ill, it is not usually life-threatening.

"On the infectious disease scale, this ranks well below the more notorious and dangerous ailments like E. coli and salmonella," said Dr. Lewis Marshall Jr., chairman of the outpatient services at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center, New York City.

"It is unlikely to be fatal, but certainly can make one's life miserable," he said. "Symptoms include crampy abdominal pain, watery diarrhea, loss of appetite, bloating, nausea, fatigue, fever, headache and body aches."

According to the CDC, cases have now been reported from Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York City, New York State, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin.

Cases of cyclosporiasis, which is caused by a single-celled parasite and can trigger diarrhea and stomachcramps, have been mounting through the month of July, said Dr. Monica Parise, chief of the parasitic diseases branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The cyclospora parasite cannot be spread from person to person; it has to be ingested via contaminated water or foods such as fruit and vegetables.

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