The Iowa Department of Public Health, CDC and local public health agencies are investigating an outbreak of an intestinal illness caused by Cyclospora (a rare parasite). As of today, July 8, 22 cases of Cyclospora infections have been reported to IDPH; almost all have been identified through testing at the State Hygienic Lab (SHL), including:

Linn County – 10 cases

Fayette County – 3 cases

O’Brien County – 2 cases

Webster County – 2 cases

Benton County – 1 case

Des Moines County – 1 case

Mills County – 1 case

Polk County – 1 case

Van Buren County – 1 case

Most people’s illness began in mid to late June, and at least one person has been hospitalized. Many people report still being ill with diarrhea and some have had relapses.

Specific treatment is available (but it is not typically used for more common diarrheal illnesses). Also, very specific laboratory testing (not commonly ordered) must be done to detect Cyclospora.

Additional cases have been identified in Nebraska and other Midwestern states. IDPH is coordinating the investigation with public health officials in those states. The investigation is ongoing; no specific source of exposure has been identified. Fresh produce (fresh fruits and vegetables) have been implicated in previous outbreaks. Washing fresh produce is recommended; however, it can be very difficult to wash Cyclospora off all types of produce.

People become infected with cyclospora by consuming food or water contaminated with the parasite, which causes a watery diarrhea that lasts an average of 57 days if untreated.

Symptoms of cyclosporiasis include:

  • Watery diarrhea
  • Fatigue (severe tiredness)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Bloating
  • Increased gas
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Low-grade fever