By Nari Nayini, Ph.D – Food and Cannabis Consultant
A cyclospora outbreak in the Boston area has sickened more than 80 people since May 2019. Most of those sickened live in eastern Massachusetts and the greater Boston area.
As of now, there is no direct link established to a particular food that may have carried the parasite, but most cyclospora outbreaks in the U.S. have been linked to fresh produce.
Most cyclospora outbreaks have been occurring in summer in the United States. In 2018, a cyclospora outbreak linked to McDonald’s salads sickened more than 500 people. A cyclospora outbreak linked to Del Monte vegetable trays sold at Kwik Trip stores sickened at least 250 people. Past cyclospora outbreaks have been linked to cilantro, raspberries, basil, peas, and mesclun lettuce.
Currently there is a cyclospora outbreak in New York that has sickened more than 11 people. Officials believe that contaminated produce is the cause of that outbreak. And a current cyclospora outbreak at Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida has sickened at least 80 people.
Cyclospora is a one-celled parasite that has to mature for it to be infectious, so it does not spread from person-to-person. When a person eats food contaminated with the oocyst, it goes through the gut and is excreted in the feces. The oocysts in the feces become infectious a couple of weeks after it is excreted. A tiny amount of feces can contaminate food or water and remain for days before the parasite is infectious.
Cyclosporiasis symptoms include watery and explosive diarrhea that can seem to resolve and then recur without warning, weight loss, stomach cramps and pain, loss of appetite, bloating, increased gas, and fatigue.
Dr. Nayini earned his Ph.D. in Food Science at Michigan State University and has 30 years of food industry experience. He now provides safety and processing consulting services to the food and cannabis industries