Thirty people or more have reported contracting parasitic infections after a charity banquet at a restaurant in Jacksonville, FL.

A local television news outlet is reporting that people who were at an Exchange Club banquet at Cooper’s Hawk Winery & Restaurant developed gastrointestinal illnesses with some having been confirmed infected by the Cyclospora parasite.

“I got up to go to the bathroom and collapsed,” Tom Clift, who attended the banquet, told News4Jax. “My wife called 911 and I was taken to the hospital by ambulance. 

Clift also said he lost 12 pounds since becoming ill in mid-June. It can take two days to two weeks after ingesting Cyclospora for symptoms of the infection known as cyclosporiasis to develop, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Once a person becomes ill, it can take two or more weeks for initial and confirmation laboratory test results to be logged by outbreak investigators. Cyclospora outbreaks are frequently linked to fresh produce such as cilantro.

Officials from the Duval County Health Department are working with the CDC on the outbreak investigation. Officials are requesting banquet attendees to fill out surveys.

Even though it’s been almost a month since Clift became ill, according to the television station report, he is still sick. Another outbreak victim, Jane Jens, also said symptoms from the parasitic infection keep hanging on.

“It really is not fun,” Jens told News4JAX. 

“What has been so devastating about this is that there are relapses. So you think you’re getting better, you feel, like ‘OK. I’m alright. I’m going to eat a small meal or a piece of toast.’ And maybe a day or two goes by and bam, here it comes again.”

According to the CDC, symptoms of cyclosporiasis may include the following:

  • Watery diarrhea, which is the most common symptom;
  • Loss of appetite;
  • Weight loss;
  • Cramping;
  • Bloating;
  • Increased gas;
  • Nausea; and
  • Fatigue

Other symptoms that may occur but are less common include vomiting an a low-grade fever.

If a person becomes infected with the Cyclospora parasite and is not treated, symptoms can persist for several weeks.

Anyone who attended the banquet and has developed a gastrointestinal illness should seek medical attention and tell their health care providers about the possible exposure to the parasite.

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