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Cyclospora: Why You Should Be Sure To Wash Your Produce

Washing your produce is a good way to avoid contact with cyclospora.

State health officials have reported dozens of cases statewide this summer of stomach-related illnesses from cyclospora, a parasite. Several of those cases have been in North Texas.

Dr. Christian Mayorga, ​chief of digestive and liver diseases for Parkland Hospital System and assistant professor of internal medicine at UT Southwestern Medical Center, talked about the resulting illness, cyclosporiasis, as well as treatment and prevention. 

Highlights from Dr. Mayorga’s interview:

What is cyclospora:“Cyclospora is a parasite. It’s a one-celled organism that is found in the environment, and it’s transmitted via what we call the fecal-oral route. A human consumes the organism, usually in the form of contaminated water or food. Then the organism causes injury to the small intestine, which is the primary source of the infection. The organism goes through its life cycle within the human host, we call it. And eventually the human passes the immature organism in his stool.”

Symptoms to watch for: “The predominant symptom is diarrhea, sometimes significant diarrhea, usually a watery diarrhea. Also additional symptoms: abdominal cramping, bloating, flatulence, fevers, chills, nausea.”

How to treat cyclosporiasis: “The name of the game is dehydration.  The people most susceptible to dehydration are the very young and the very elderly because they have difficulty keeping up with their fluid intake. Most patients can be supported with adequate hydration (while waiting for test results). If the tests come back positive, then treatment is with an antibiotic.”

For more information:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 

Texas Department of Health and Human Services

Sam Baker is KERA's senior editor and local host for Morning Edition. The native of Beaumont, Texas, also edits and produces radio commentaries and Vital Signs, a series that's part of the station's Breakthroughs initiative. He also was the longtime host of KERA 13’s Emmy Award-winning public affairs program On the Record. He also won an Emmy in 2008 for KERA’s Sharing the Power: A Voter’s Voice Special, and has earned honors from the Associated Press and the Public Radio News Directors Inc.