An outbreak of the rare parasite cyclospora is now known to have sickened at least 45 people in Iowa and several others in Nebraska and other midwestern states, health officials reported Friday. Almost all of the Iowa cases have been confirmed through laboratory testing, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. The illnesses began in mid-June, reported IDPH, and at least one person has been hospitalized. The number of cases in Iowa by county is as follows:

  • Linn County – 21 cases
  • Fayette County – 3 cases
  • Polk County – 3 cases
  • O’Brien County – 3 cases
  • Dallas County – 2 cases
  • Mills County – 2 cases
  • Webster County – 2 cases
  • Des Moines County – 2 cases
  • Benton County – 1 case
  • Black Hawk County – 1 case
  • Buchanan – 1 case
  • Johnson County – 1 case
  • Pottawattamie County – 1 case
  • Van Buren County – 1 case
  • Woodbury – 1 case

Cyclospora is transmitted via food or water and causes diarrheal illness in infected individuals. Past cyclospora outbreaks have most commonly been linked to fresh produce, particularly berries. Interviews with victims of the ongoing outbreak in the Midwest indicate that a fresh vegetable is the most likely source of the parasite. While washing fresh produce is recommended, cyclospora can be very difficult to remove from fruits and vegetables, says IDPH. Cyclosporiasis (the disease caused by cyclospora infection) is characterized by watery diarrhea, which lasts approximately 57 days if left untreated. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, gas, bloating, fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle aches and low-grade fever. If you think you may have contracted a cyclospora infection, contact your healthcare provider or your local health department.