What’s the best way to avoid cyclosporiasis? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is “avoiding food or water that may have been contaminated with feces.” Check, next time you are offered feces with your food, make sure you decline. But detecting the microscopic parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis in food in not always that easy, even if you were Ant Man.
Case in point. The CDC has been investigating a cylosporiasis outbreak that has now affected at least 212 people across 4 states: Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan. They all had munched on pre-packaged Del Monte Fresh Produce vegetable trays that contained broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and dill dip and presumably didn’t have “Now With Feces” labels on them. As the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported, Del Monte has voluntarily recalled the following products sold through Kwik Trip, Kwik Star, Demond’s, Sentry, Potash, Meehan’s, Country Market, Food Max Supermarket and Peapod in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin:
|Product Name||Most Recent
Best By date
|Del Monte 6 oz. Veg Tray w/dip||6/17/2018||Baby carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and dill dip||7 1752472715 2|
|Del Monte 12 oz. Veg Tray w/dip||6/17/2018||Baby carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and dill dip||7 1752472518 9|
|Del Monte 28 oz. Small Veg Tray w/dip||6/17/2018||Baby carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, celery sticks and dill dip||7 1752478604|
This news segment shows the veggie trays that come in clear clamshell packaging:
This outbreak shouldn’t be an excuse to avoid vegetables. Tons of baby carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, and celery sticks are regularly consumed at boring business meetings without incident. While cyclosporiasis outbreaks have occurred in the U.S., the parasite is more common in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Food growers and suppliers that follow the good agricultural practices (GAPs) and good manufacturing practices (GMPs) described in the FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN) Guide to Minimize Microbial Food Safety Hazards for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables can keep risks of outbreaks relatively low.
That’s good because cyclosporiasis is not fun. Cyclosporiasis can result in explosive diarrhea. Anything explosive near your butt is not good. The diarrhea can be watery and voluminous, accompanied by gas, bloating, cramping, nausea, loss of appetite, and weight loss. You may vomit and even have a low grade fever. These wonderful symptoms can last anywhere from 2 days to well over 2 weeks. In fact, you could even have them for over a month (although the average length of symptoms is a week.)
If you want to tell your kids a bedtime story that somehow involves explosive diarrhea, tell them about the life cycle of this parasite, illustrated on the CDC website. An infected person can poop out oocysts, which is the life stage in which the parasite is encased in a thick hard wall. When first pooped out, an oocyst is not initially infective (unsporulated) but can infect humans after it sits in temperatures from 22°C to 32°C for at least 1 to 2 weeks and sporulates. When food and water comes into contact with poop containing oocysts, the food and water can then become contaminated. Eating this food and water then will result in sporulated oocysts in your small intestine. There the little parasites break free of the cysts, invade the walls of your small intestine, and reproduce asexually, i.e., no Tinder needed. These new parasite young un’s then grow, go through parasite puberty, and mature into oocysts, which then go outside with your poop. Thus the parasite circle of life.
A doctor can diagnose cyclosporiasis by finding oocysts in your poop and treat you with an antibiotic trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole (TMP/SMX), otherwise known as Bactrim, Septra, and Cotrim. If your immune system is normal, cyclosporiasis may resolve without antibiotic treatment but contact your doctor if you have diarrhea lasting for longer than a couple days, especially if it is explosive. Also, while you are infectious, wash your frequently and thoroughly and for Pete’s sake, don’t prepare any vegetable trays.