With nearly 300 cases across 11 states, U.S. health officials are dealing with a mysterious stomach bug.
It’s called cyclosporiasis and so far, the illness has put 18 people into the hospital.
There are no cases in Pennsylvania reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but doctors here still want people to be informed.
Cyclospora is a tiny parasite that’s causing these infections.
Dr. Susan Hogg of Family First Medical in Manor Township, Lancaster County said symptoms of cyclosporiasis are similar to the flu.
“They can have fatigue, flu-like symptoms, like headache, gas, bloating,” she said. “But particularly diarrhea, cramping, abdominal pain.”
The cause of the outbreak has not been pinpointed just yet, but cyclospora gets into the body through food or water that’s contaminated with feces.
Previous outbreaks have been linked to fresh produce imported from tropical climates.
“You would want to wash with hot, soapy water before dealing with the food and after, and then washing your produce, your fresh produce rather thoroughly,” Dr. Hogg said.
In a small bit of good news, the bug is not spread person-to-person. You have to be exposed to the infected parasite.
Dr. Hogg said many people will clear the infection on their own, but it could take anywhere from several days to several weeks of discomfort.
It’s important to visit your doctor if you’re experiencing these symptoms, so you can be tested for this specific parasite.
It’ll help health officials get a better sense of how widespread the outbreak is and pinpoint a cause.
To read more about the current cyclosporiasis outbreak, visit the CDC’s page here.