By CRISTIN REECE
The number of cases of the recent cyclospora outbreaks across the county continues to climb as medical professionals finally name at least one culprit.
As of Aug. 12, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention have been notified of 539 cases of the stomach bug in 19 states, including Texas which has the second largest number of cases at 113.
Palestine Regional Medical Center officials said there have been no reported cases of the parasite in Anderson County.
At least 32 people across the country have been hospitalized and the source of many of these cases has yet to be determined.
“On July 30, 2013, the states of Iowa and Nebraska announced that their analysis indicated that the outbreak in those states was linked to a salad mix,” a media release published on the Federal Department of Agriculture’s website states. “To date, only the salad mix has been implicated in the outbreak of cyclosporiasis in Iowa and Nebraska.”
According to the FDA’s website, the investigation confirmed the salad mix was supplied to restaurants, including Red Lobster and Olive Garden, in both states by Taylor Farms de Mexico, S. de R.L. de C.V., a processor of foodservice salads.
The FDA’s investigation has not implicated consumer packages sold in grocery stores.
Officials with Darden Restaurants, which operates both chains, have reported Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants in Texas are not supplied by Taylor Farms de Mexico.
On Monday, Taylor Farms de Mexico officially informed the FDA it had voluntarily suspended production and shipment of any salad mix, leafy green or salad mix components from its operations in Mexico to the U.S.
This voluntary action goes beyond the implicated salad mix and includes iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, green leaf lettuce, red cabbage, green cabbage and carrots.
State and federal officials continue to investigate the causes of the illness in Texas and 16 other states.
“Should a specific food item be identified, the FDA, CDC, state and local partners will work to track it to its source, determine why the outbreak occurred, and if contamination is still a risk, implement preventive action, which will help to keep an outbreak like this from happening again,” the CDC’s website states.
People become infected with Cyclospora by consuming food or water contaminated by feces. Cyclospora infects the small intestine (bowel) and can cause watery diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps/pain, bloating, increased gas, nausea, and fatigue.
Consumers should always practice safe food handling and preparation measures. Wash hands, utensils, and surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after handling food. Fresh produce should be thoroughly washed before it is eaten.
Contact a healthcare provider if you have diarrhea that lasts for more than three days.