Experts detail symptoms of cyclospora

August 7, 2013 3:49:22 PM PDT
Texas now has more confirmed cases of cyclospora than any other state. Of the 467 confirmed cases in the U.S., 157 are in Texas. The Houston area has fared a little better. There have been a total of nine cases here: five in the city of Houston and four in Harris County.

Nine isn't a lot of cases out of 157 in Texas, when you're talking about an area as big as Houston and Harris County. But what caused people to get sick? That's what has people worried.

"At this point we don't know, and that's the simplest answer. We're still in the midst of our investigation," said Dr. Umair Shah, director of the Harris County Public Health Service Department.

Experts say it can take a long time to trace the source of a parasite like cyclospora, which can give people diarrhea through contaminated produce.

"You have to get them to remember the food they ate over a week ago and then find out where the food came from and track it back to the country of origin. So it's a difficult proposition," said Kathy Barton with the Houston Health Department.

Are the nine cases in this area linked to the state and nationwide outbreaks?

"We don't know until we do a little more investigating. We need to find out if these people have traveled out of the country, if they've traveled throughout the nation, what are their eating habits," Barton said.

How can people tell whether they have an intestinal bug, or if it's cyclospora?

"What makes cyclospora different, though, is that this is prolonged watery diarrhea," Shah said.

Most people will get well on their own. But who wants a month of diarrhea? So if your watery diarrhea lasts more than a couple of days, go to the doctor, because antibiotics can shorten your misery.

Health officials anticipate the publicity may lead to additional cases, as people who are sick at home come forward.

"'I didn't think that this was such a big deal, but now that I heard the health department talk about this or my doctor talk about this or Christi Myers talk about this, they may actually decide to go seek care," Shah said.

At this time, hospitals and pediatricians in the Houston area are on the look out for cyclospora cases. So far they tell us, they are not seeing an increase in intestinal illnesses.

Officials say if you think they may have it, you should contact your doctor or your local health department.

Find Christi on Facebook at ABC13-Christi Myers or on Twitter at @ChristiMyers13

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