In the past 20 years Iowa has had only 10 confirmed cases of cyclosporiasis, a parasite that causes severe diarrhea. So far this year we`ve had more than 70 cases of this unusual food borne illness.
It has a long incubation period and Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, state epidemiologist, says a unique test is required to detect it.
“Most of the time even if these people were sick and went to their doctors and had testing done, this wouldn`t have been found,” Quinlisk says,
So, by the time many people were diagnosed with cyclosporiasis many weeks had already passed.
Sarah Boese with the Polk County Health Department says, “We`re going back almost a month in time here trying to ask people about what they ate for every single meal for a period of a couple weeks and so it`s hard to track down those foods and remember exactly where you were and what you ate.”
Boese says characteristics like this make it difficult to figure out where the contaminant came from, but they suspect it came from a vegetable. Boese says, “The more information we have the sooner, it makes it a lot easier and a lot faster for us to make that link between what might be making people sick so that we can remove that from the food supply.”
While the disease isn`t deadly, if left untreated patients have diarrhea an average of 57 days. The number of cases continues to climb across the state, but experts do have some good news. Health officials say the increase in cases has less to do with more people being infected but with better reporting of the disease.
“The people that are being reported now with this disease actually are still people who got it from a month ago. Which sort of indicates that we`re not having anybody getting sick now,” Quinlisk says.
Meaning, if you haven`t gotten it yet, odds are you`re in the clear.