Fecal Parasite Outbreak Traced To Mexico

CDC logs 241 confirmed victims in 11 states

| Fecal parasite outbreak traced to fresh herb from Mexico

| October 1, 2019

Food Safety News – CDC today declared the end to a cyclosporiasis outbreak traced to basil from Mexico.

[Cyclosporiasis is a disease caused by a pathogenic protozoan transmitted by feces or feces-contaminated food and water. – Ed.]

The tally of laboratory-confirmed patients stands at 241, with sick people spread across 11 states.

Six were so ill they had to be admitted to hospitals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is unlikely that additional outbreak victims will be identified moving forward.

“In this fresh basil-associated cluster (of illnesses), there were several situations in which people reported eating at the same restaurants,” the CDC reported.

The cyclospora parasite that results in cyclosporiasis is often found on fresh produce that is generally consumed raw. Cilantro from Mexico routinely causes outbreaks from the parasite during the warmer months in the United States.

[Cyclosporiasis primarily affects humans and other primates. When an oocyst of Cyclospora cayetanensis enters the small intestine, it invades the mucosa, where it incubates for about one week. After incubation, the infected person begins to experience severe watery diarrhea, bloating, fever, stomach cramps, and muscle aches. – Ed.]

Working with the Food and Drug Administration, investigators at the CDC traced the parasitic outbreak to fresh basil from Siga Logistics de RL de CV of Morelos, Mexico.

The company issued a recall on July 24. Illness onset dates ranged from June 10 through July 26. Ill people ranged in age from 15 to 98 years old. About 70 percent were female

Although confirmed patients are from 11 states, several of the victims were not exposed to the implicated basil in their home states. The CDC reported the exposure occurred in Florida, Minnesota, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin.

“The Massachusetts and Connecticut case-patients were exposed in New York State; the Iowa, Rhode Island, and two Wisconsin case-patients were exposed in Minnesota; and the Georgia, South Carolina, one Wisconsin and two Minnesota case-patients were exposed in Florida,” according to the outbreak update.

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CDC recommendations 

“Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting, or cooking.”

Avoiding food or water that might have been contaminated with stool may help prevent Cyclospora infection.

Consumers and retailers should always follow safe fruit and vegetable handling recommendations:

  • Wash: Wash hands with soap and warm water before and after handling or preparing fruits and vegetables. Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with soap and hot water between the preparation of raw meat, poultry, and seafood products and the preparation of fruits and vegetables that will not be cooked.
  • Prepare: Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting, or cooking. Fruits and vegetables that are labeled “prewashed” do not need to be washed again at home. Scrub firm fruits and vegetables, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush. Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating.
  • Store: Refrigerate cut, peeled, or cooked fruits and vegetables as soon as possible, or within 2 hours. Store fruits and vegetables away from raw meat, poultry, and seafood. Source: About Cyclosporiasis