The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

August 2, 2013

Stomach bug outbreak tentatively blamed on prepackaged salad

Health officials: Unsure if Texas cases can be linked to same culprit

Palestine Herald-Press

PALESTINE — Federal and state health officials in two states have tentatively identified a suspect in the recent outbreak of the stomach bug cyclospora, but can’t positively ID that source as the cause of the same illnesses in Texas.

According to reports published by the Associated Press this week, Iowa and Nebraska health officials on Tuesday were able to single out prepackaged salad mix as the source of the severe stomach bug that sickened hundreds of people in both states last month, but federal authorities couldn’t link that produce to cyclospora cases that cropped up in Texas.

Texas public health officials have received 122 reports of the illness — including two reported in Smith County — but have not yet found a link.

The state issued an advisory urging health care providers to test patients if they show symptoms of the infection, said Christine Mann, a spokeswoman for the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Authorities with the Palestine Regional Medical Center report there have been no cases of the illness found in Anderson County and continue to recommend people wash all fresh fruits and vegetables thoroughly before consuming them.

Cyclospora is a rare parasite which can cause lengthy gastrointestinal illness, and are spread when people ingest food or water contaminated with feces. The illnesses are most often found in tropical or subtropical countries and have been linked to imported fresh fruits and vegetables in the past.

Nebraska officials said the salad mix in question included iceberg and romaine lettuce, along with red cabbage and carrots, which came through national distribution chains. They did not identify specific brands. In Iowa, officials said they were confident most of the product was no longer on the shelves.

The CDC said at least 22 people have been hospitalized and most of the reported illnesses occurred from mid-June to early July. As of July 31, the CDC has been notified of 397 cases of Cyclospora infection in 17 states.

“CDC is still actively pursuing all leads and hasn’t implicated any single food item as the cause of the outbreak in all states,” CDC spokeswoman Sharon Hoskins told the Associated Press this week.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.