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Cyclospora Infections: Are You at Risk?

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The CDC says bleach and other chemicals like iodine don't seem to kill cyclospora, so you can forget soaps and detergents.

How do you know if you're infected?

The telltale symptom of the infection is watery diarrhea that comes and goes. "About half of people have low-grade fevers. Some people feel like they sort of have a flu-like illness. There's a lot of gas, usually, too. It can last for several weeks," Shane says.

Among the cases in Iowa, Garvey says , the main symptoms are  watery diarrhea for extended periods of time, weight loss, bloating, fatigue, and some vomiting. “Lots of people have lost their appetites and have experienced significant weight loss. These are all pretty consistent with classic symptoms."

People can be hospitalized for dehydration associated with prolonged diarrhea.

If you have diarrhea for several days or diarrhea that comes and goes, see your doctor. Also watch out for signs of dehydration, such as dry mouth and tongue, not urinating much, and dizziness. If you’re not able to keep water or other liquids down, see your doctor.

How is it diagnosed?

Diagnosis is difficult because you can have the infection for 2 to 14 days before you start to have symptoms. "You’re asking people to think about things they've eaten more than a week ago.  That's really hard to remember, so that's why I think it's been really challenging for the CDC and FDA to figure out what the vehicle is," Shane says.

Also,  cyclospora aren't present in the stool in high numbers, so doctors have to concentrate the sample before sending it to a lab. The lab test also requires a special staining of the specimen.

To help doctors identify sick patients quickly, the CDC is offering special remote diagnosis of suspected infections. They will do remote diagnosis from a digital image sent through email, Shane says.

How are cyclospora infections treated?

Bactrim, an antibiotic, is the standard treatment. "Most people, if they take a 7- to 10-day course of Bactrim, experience relief of symptoms," Shane says.

Are certain groups of people particularly vulnerable?

A lot of stomach infections affect the very young and the very old, but for cyclospora, the average age of infection is 44. Women are more likely to be infected than men, probably because they're more likely to eat the kind of foods that become contaminated with cyclospora, Shane says.

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