Outbreaks of cyclosporiasis, an illness caused by the parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis, occur almost every year in the US, and this summer is no exception. People can become infected with Cyclospora by consuming food or water contaminated with the parasite. Since May 1, more than 206 laboratory-confirmed cases of cyclosporiasis have been reported across 8 states in the Midwest.
Based on interviews with patients, investigators traced the outbreak back to bagged salad mix. The recent outbreak of Cyclospora infections highlights the importance of compliance with the Food and Drug Administration Produce Safety Rule and specifically worker health and hygiene principles.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have made attempts to better understand the factors contributing to Cyclospora infections. However, many cases of cyclosporiasis cannot be directly linked to an outbreak, in part because of the lack of validated molecular typing tools for Cyclospora cayetanensis.
It is likely, in the future, new analysis methods will be developed to differential strains of Cyclospora, if there is enough genetic diversity. This will allow a way to focus more quickly on illness clusters and more rapid traceback of food vehicles to production sites. This should allow for environmental assessments at production sites to determine routes of contamination and prevention option.
In the meantime, the best we can do is to emphasize the importance of compliance with the Food and Drug Administration Produce Safety Rule, and specifically worker health and hygiene principles.