Note: Sound bites on this topic will be available shortly at: www.dhhs.ne.gov/audio
Lincoln – Prepackaged salad mix is the source of the state’s cyclospora outbreak which has sickened 78 Nebraskans since mid-June according to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services. Cyclospora is a rare parasite that causes a lengthy gastrointestinal illness.
“Our goal is to protect Nebraskans, pinpoint the source of the illness and make sure the risk is eliminated,” said Dr. Joseph Acierno, Chief Medical Officer and Director of Public Health for DHHS. “Our investigation implicated prepackaged, prewashed, salad mix as the cause of this outbreak.”
DHHS’ investigation also shows the salad mix which includes iceberg and romaine lettuce along with red cabbage and carrots came through national distribution channels. Locally grown produce is not part of this outbreak.
DHHS and local health departments are currently working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to identify exactly where the contamination came from along the food production chain and where the product was distributed. Nebraska public health officials believe the bulk of the contaminated salad mix already worked its way through the system due to limited shelf life.
Fresh vegetables and fruit are usually associated with cyclospora outbreaks. People become sick when they consume food contaminated with the parasite. Washing fruits and vegetables is always recommended but it can be difficult to wash cyclospora off all types of produce.
DHHS continues to receive reports of cyclospora cases daily. Five people have been hospitalized and were released. The investigation continues and public health officials will remain vigilant in investigating newly reported cases.
Symptoms of cyclospora include diarrhea that can last weeks to months, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, bloating, intestinal gas, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches and low-grade fever.
People experiencing symptoms should see a physician for diagnosis and treatment.
DHHS will continue to work closely with local health departments, other states and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and FDA as the investigation moves forward.
For the latest cyclospora outbreak information, go to www.dhhs.ne.gov/cyclospora.