Several cases of a rare illness have been confirmed in Iowa this summer and public health officials are asking those with symptoms of the illness to seek medical treatment.
As of July 8, 22 cases of cyclosporiasis have been identified in the state, according to the Iowa Department of Public Health. The illness is caused by the parasite cyclospora. The most common symptom of the intestinal illness is watery diarrhea which can last an average of 57 days if untreated. Other symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, vomiting, stomach cramps and more.
The IDPH has not yet identified the source of the illness in the state. The illness does not spread person to person, but is transmitted by feces. Water or produce that has been contaminated by feces that contained cyclospora can also spread the disease. Shelby Kroona, administrator of Hamilton County Public Health, said washing fruits and vegetables is recommended. Fruits that are not usually washed, like bananas, should also be washed before eating.
Linn County has seen the most cases of cyclosporiasis in the state this summer, with 10 confirmed cases reported so far. Eight other counties in Iowa, including Webster County with two cases, have also seen confirmed cases this summer. At least one person has been hospitalized due to the illness.
In a press release, the IDPH called the recent cases of cyclosporiasis an outbreak. Kroona said that's likely due to the quick rise in cases this summer. Only one case of the illness was confirmed in Iowa last year. It could also be considered an outbreak because cyclosporiasis is rare in the United States.
While Kroona said it's generally important for anyone experiencing diarrhea that lasts longer than several days to seek medical treatment, the presence of cyclosporiasis in Iowa makes seeking help for the symptom additionally important. The IDPH said specific treatment is available for the illness and identifying the illness also requires specific testing. Kroona said if someone has prolonged diarrhea, they should request a stool sample to be tested for the illness.
Regardless of if a person has cyclosporiasis or not, Kroona said that a person experiencing diarrhea or vomiting should not prepare or handle food for others until at least 24 hours after the vomiting or diarrhea ends. The presence of this rare illness, Kroona said, is just another reason to practice those healthy hygiene habits.