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Health officials tracking cases of cyclospora

(Radio Iowa) – Iowa health officials are monitoring a spike in cases of an intestinal infection caused by a parasite. There have only been 10 cases of cyclospora in the state in the last 20 years, but several cases have been reported in the last two weeks.

Dr. Dan Diekema is chief of the infectious diseases division at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. He says consuming tainted food or water can cause the infection.

“And so the parasite is present in the food or in the water — you ingest it — it infects your small bowel and causes mostly watery diarrhea, but also weight loss, abdominal pain and fatigue,” Diekema says. He says cyclospora can be difficult to diagnose because it’s not something that would be included in a routine exam.

“It’s important for patients and for the physicians that are seeing them to know that cyclospora is apparently out there somewhere –it’s being investigated what the source is — so that if patients have symptoms that are consistent with cyclospora that a test specifically for this parasite is ordered,” Diekema says.

Diekema says this is not your typical stomach bug, the symptoms can last nearly two months. He says because previous outbreaks have been linked to fresh produce, it’s important to carefully wash it thoroughly before you eat it.

Cyclospora cases have been reported in Benton, Des Moines, Fayette, Linn and Webster counties and several more were reported in Western Iowa Friday.