For a month now people in New York have been testing positive for parasitic infections that health officials say appear to have a foodborne vector.

There are currently 11 laboratory-confirmed patients infected with the Cyclospora parasite, according to an alert from the New York State Department of Health. At least three specific foodservice providers have been reported by some of the patients. 

“Several of the cases interviewed report they dined at the following establishments: The Italian American Community Center in Albany; A buffet during a private graduation event at Union College in Schenectady; Prime Life Restaurant at Beltrone Senior Living Community Center in Colonie,” according to the state health department.

“There is no indication that the illnesses are related to poor food handling or preparation at these establishments, and each of the establishments is fully cooperating with the investigation.”

New York officials did not provide any specific information on the confirmed patients except to say that their illnesses started becoming apparent in mid-June. The state officials are working with Albany County Department of Health, Montgomery County Public Health, Saratoga County Public Health and Schenectady County Public Health Services on the investigation. 

The state health department hinted that contaminated fresh produce could be the source of the Cyclospora parasites that have caused cyclosporiasis infections.

“Additional establishments may be identified as this investigation continues. Contamination of produce with Cyclospora often occurs prior to arrival at food distribution centers and restaurants. This type of contamination is not easily removed by standard produce rinsing,” according to the state alert.

The department is closely monitoring an increase in cases of cyclosporiasis statewide and nationally, unrelated to the investigation in the Albany area, according to the alert. State and county health departments issued a Healthcare Provider Alert to local healthcare providers about the increase in laboratory-confirmed cases of Cyclosporiasis and to advise them of appropriate methods of testing and treatment for people who may present with a diarrheal illness consistent with this infection.

Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness caused by the microscopic parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People can become infected with Cyclospora by consuming food or water contaminated with the parasite.

The time between becoming infected by the parasite and becoming sick is usually about one week. Cyclospora parasites infect the small intestine, usually causing watery diarrhea, with frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements. Other common symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps/pain, bloating, increased gas, nausea, and fatigue. Vomiting, body aches, headache, fever, and other flu-like symptoms may be noted. Some people who are infected with Cyclospora do not have any symptoms.

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