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Dozens From Iowa Sickened by Rare Parasite

Update Date: Jul 13, 2013 09:24 AM EDT
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Another outbreak tied to produce has occurred in the United States. Over the past few months, there has been an alarmingly high number of recalls due to possible bacterial contamination. Although some of the products did not involve a large number of victims, this particular outbreak in Iowa has left several dozens of residents with nasty symptoms.

Although it was slightly hard to determine the culprit at the beginning of the investigation, the public health investigators believe that a rare parasite originating from fresh vegetables is the cause for the recent outbreak. According to the investigators, this is the worst case of an outbreak linked to this particular parasite in Iowa. The parasite is currently responsible for at least 45 sickened Iowans. The state of Nebraska has also reported 35 cases.

When this parasite is left untreated, victims can experience an average of 57 days of painful diarrhea. Two victims have already been sent to the hospital due to dehydration from diarrhea and one has reportedly been released from the hospital. The majority of the cases haven occurred in Linn County, with 21 confirmed cases of infected people.

"This one's got out attention," Barbara Chadwick, the clinical services manager for the county's Health Department said according to USA Today. In terms of food safety, Chadwick added, "We're not just talking about running them under some water and giving them a little pat. It's about soaking them and giving them a good scrubbing."

The parasite, cyclospora, can sit in the human body for two weeks before symptoms start showing. It is hard to kill via washing but can be killed effectively when the vegetables are thoroughly cooked. After interviewing the victims, the investigators believe that the source of the parasite comes from a commercially sold product and thus, home gardens should be safe to eat.

"Were looking at very, very commonly eaten food this time of year," Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, the medical director for the Iowa Department of Public Health said. "You ask people if they've eaten it, and almost everybody answers yes."

The state's Department of Inspections and Appeals is now investigating the possible suppliers responsible for the outbreak. Once the suppliers are identified, it would be a lot easier to figure out which produce are infected. 

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