5 Things You Need to Know About Cyclosporiasis (besides That It’s Gross and It’s on the Rise)

It sounds like a wild ride at an amusement park, but cyclosporiasis is no fun at all—and, spoiler alert, it has to do with accidentally eating poop.

Cyclosporiasis

Roman Samborskyi/ShutterstockThere are a number of reasons you could be having stomach pain, but recently it’s become more likely that it’s cyclosporiasis. Cyclosporiasis (pronounced sy-clo-so-RY-uh-sis), is a food-borne parasitic infection that’s on the rise in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—with a 134 percent increase in the number of cases reported of cyclospora infections just this past summer, from May 1 until the beginning of August. Although the numbers are somewhat in line with ones of previous summers, the CDC wants to get the word out: “We put out this notice because the more complete the case reporting we can get, the easier it will be to figure out why this is happening,” Dr. Monica Parise, director of the CDC’s Division of Parasitic Disease and Malaria, told CNN.

How you get cyclosporiasis

It’s about to get gross, but stay with us (knowledge is power). The CDC reports that the intestinal illness is caused by consuming food or water that is contaminated by the microscopic parasite cyclospora cayetanensis, which comes from feces of those who are already infected. That means you can get it from someone who has cyclospora and doesn’t wash their hands after using the restroom and touches the food you eat. Here are some food poisoning myths you can safely ignore.

Where you might get cyclosporiasis

Previous cases of cyclospora have been linked to pre-packaged salad mix, raspberries, lettuce, basil, snow peas, and mesclun greens. It’s also been linked to other fruits and vegetables that have been exposed to infected feces (here are the correct ways to safely store and prepare produce). While you should always give your fresh produce a good rinsing, if you find out it’s come from a place that’s experienced a cyclosporiasis outbreak, throw them away. Unfortunately, you can’t kill cyclospora parasites by disinfection or sanitization, according to the CDC—so the only way to prevent contracting the infection is to avoid food or water contaminated by feces. That means avoiding places where an outbreak has been reported.

Symptoms of cyclosporiasis

It’s not pretty. Cyclosporiasis symptoms can include diarrhea, watery stools, nausea, bloating, loss of appetite, weight loss, cramping, and gas, according to ibtimes.com. Symptoms can start as soon as two days and as late as two weeks after eating contaminated food. If you have HIV or other problems that weaken your immunity, cyclosporiasis can last for months if not properly treated. If you are experiencing symptoms, talk to your doctor about getting tested for cyclosporiasis. Tests include the ova and parasite examination, molecular methods, and a gastrointestinal panel test.

How to treat cyclosporiasis

If you have the infection but have a healthy immune systems, you will likely recover without treatment, according to the CDC. To hep manage the symptoms you can take a anti-diarrheal can help reduce diarrhea, anddrink plenty of water to replace the fluids you’ve lost (but if you get severely dehydrated, visit the emergency room). If your body doesn’t clear the infection after a month, you may need antibiotics, namely trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (TMP/SMX), sold under the trade names Bactrim, Septra, and Cotrim. Researchers are continuing their research to better understand the disease and how to deal with symptoms.

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