SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WGGB) — A prepackaged salad mix has been identified as the source of that outbreak of a stomach bug known as cyclospora that made hundreds of people in Iowa and Nebraska sick.
Now, the outbreak has been reported in about 372 cases across 15 states and continues to climb.
Disease hunters in Iowa and Nebraska say they know what’s causing it. Investigators found a common connection between those who got sick.
They had all eaten the same salad mix at home, in restaurants, or at catered events. The salad is a prewashed mix of lettuces, cabbage, and carrots.
Health officials won’t say the name of the brand involved, but say it’s no longer on the shelves, so no one in Nebraska and Iowa is at risk any more.
So while people in two states have an answer, investigators in other states work to figure out if the same food has made their people sick.
Wednesday, ABC40′s Dave Madsen spoke with ABC News Chief Medical Editor, Dr. Richard Besser, about the threat:
MADSEN: “How does a salad mix like this get contaminated in the first place, is it at the source?”
DR. BESSER: “Cyclospora is a parasite. This is an unusual cause of food borne illness. All of the outbreaks have been from imported produce because this germ lives in the tropics and the subtropics. What they need to do is visit those farms and figure out, was it in the soil, was it in the water, how did this product get contaminated, so they can prevent that from happening again in the future.”
MADSEN: “Now food borne illness really isn’t all that unusual during the summer months. Is it the intensity of this infection that really is cause for concern?”
DR. BESSER: “You’re right, 48 million people get food poisoning every year. The summer is worse probably because of cookouts and people leaving food out longer than they should. What got people on this, it’s an unusual germ for a food borne outbreak and instead of lasting 3 days like most of these illnesses, this one will last for longer than a month if you’re not diagnosed and treated with the right anti-biotic. So it’s one that people shouldn’t ignore. “
MADSEN: “So really the threat from this batch is pretty much over, but I guess the message is, when you get this prepackaged salad, don’t just throw it out on your plate.”
DR. BESSER: ”The message is you really need to treat your produce carefully so you don’t contaminate it in your kitchen, you want to use it quickly. But this outbreak may not be totally over. This investigates Iowa and Nebraska, but the investigators in Texas and in Florida are still hard at work because they haven’t been able to link their outbreaks yet to the same products. So stay tuned, pay attention and don’t assume that all of the risk is gone.”
Dr. Besser says this is not your run-of-the-mill stomach bug. The average weight loss is around 10 pounds and it can last for more than a month.