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Iowa’s Gastrointestinal Summer of Secrets

If there was a trifecta for gastrointestinal illnesses, Iowa would be running away with it this summer.

It’s running second only to Texas in the national Cyclospora outbreak with 153 cases and it was one of seven states where the number of illnesses continued to increase during the past three days. The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) prefers to look at the fact that its new case reports are at least on the decline.

Then there is Iowa’s perennial problem with Cryptosporidiosis, another parasite. Iowa has logged 358 “Crypto” cases this year and 272 cases since June 1. Last year, Iowa health officials recorded 328 “Crypto” cases for the entire year.

And the third part of the trifecta is for a 19-county outbreak of Salmonella, likely due to poultry or eggs, that has sickened at least 26 Iowans in the past several weeks. IDPH suspects uncooked chicken on the grill and/or egg-containing treats such as homemade ice cream.

Iowa, followed quickly by Nebraska, was first to name a salad mix containing iceberg and romaine lettuce, red cabbage and carrots as the source of its Cyclospora outbreak. It was later identified as being a product of Taylor Farms, grown in Mexico.

Otherwise, however, Iowa has come in for criticism for its slow response to foodborne illnesses. IDPH has blamed this in part on a state law protecting businesses involved in an outbreak from being publicly named if the public health threat has passed. The department said its investigation found 50 possible sites that were distributing the bad salad mix, including 15 restaurants, 30 grocery stores and some isolated others.

The same law to protect businesses from such disclosures is also being applied by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, a Democrat, to keep the names of public swimming pools that have been spreading the “Crypto” parasite out of the press. An AG’s opinion has blocked disclosure of the names of at least 30 public and privately owned swimming pools that have failed to manage the parasite infections.

In anticipation of the “Crypto” season last May, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk put out a candid press release pointing out where “recreational water illnesses’ come from. “To be blunt,” she said, “most RWIs in pools are caused by human poop in the water.”

Just don’t ask her which pools have poop on their records.

© Food Safety News
  • Paler_shade_of_blue

    Iowans…use your toilets!