Doctors, agriculture officials on guard after third confirmed cyclospora case in LA

Published: Aug. 6, 2013 at 2:34 AM CDT|Updated: Aug. 13, 2013 at 3:21 AM CDT
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New Orleans, La. - With news of Louisiana's third confirmed cyclospora case Monday, some people said they're on guard.

"Yeah, I worry about it. Anything that's gonna make me sick, yeah, I worry about it," said Brenda Allen.

"I'm deeply concerned because I eat a lot of vegetables," said Oscar Donahue. "I mean, I'm trying to do the right thing for sure and it is stunning. It's absolutely a shock that something as common and simple as lettuce could be dangerous. Most people I would think, like me, don't want to hear that."

The newest Louisiana case, out of Caddo Parish, follows cases in Bienville Parish and closer to home in Terrebonne.

Two of the three infected people said they had eaten lettuce out of Texas leading up to their symptoms.

According to the Centers For Disease Control, as of Monday afternoon there have been 425 cases in 16 states.

State Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain said it's part of an ongoing concern with the way we consume produce these days.

"We used to eat products when they were in season and now we are really spoiled," Strain said. "We want what we want when we want it, year round, so it has to move great distances and it is commingled and it is put into refrigeration and it touches more hands."

That, according to doctors, can lead to parasites like cyclospora.

Dr. Fred Lopez with LSU said, if infected, a person will typically begin feeling effects in about a week.

"Symptoms are typically diarrhea, watery diarrhea. People can have bloating. They can have nausea. They can have vomiting. They can even have associated symptoms that look a lot like the flu," Lopez said. "Particularly those who are immuno-compromised, whose immune systems are not working well, this can last for weeks to months and we've seen some people who get better and then relapse again."

However, Lopez and Strain said the key to avoiding cyclospora is simple -- wash produce thoroughly, for an extended period of time.

"Getting (the parasite) off the surface (of the produce) is what's really important. That's why washing your fruits and vegetables is particularly important," Lopez said.

"I've been before groups and said, 'How many of you have a vegetable brush,' and maybe one person raises their hand. 'How many of you actually use them to scrub your vegetables?' Nobody. So, we have to get back to some of those basics," he said.

State health officials said neither of the people infected hospitalization. Due to the fact that all three began feeling symptoms in early July, Lopez said it's reasonable to believe the contaminated source may have already moved out of the food supply.