There's a nasty stomach bug hitting New Jersey and six other states and it has sickened nearly 300 people.

Cyclospora is relatively common in tropical and subtropical climates and can cause diarrhea and flu-like symptoms. But, there are precautions you can take to prevent contracting the illness:

  • Avoid water or food that may be contaminated with stool.
  • Wash and peel all raw vegetables and fruits before eating.
  • When traveling in countries where the water supply may be unsafe, avoid drinking unboiled tap water and avoid uncooked foods like salads and fruits washed with unboiled tap water.
  • Anyone with diarrhea should not prepare food for others.

"Cyclospora is not spread person-to-person. It is spread by ingesting contaminated food or water. The food or water could be contaminated by feces that have the parasite in it," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Tina Tan.

Symptoms include:

  • Watery diarrhea (often frequent and explosive)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Bloating
  • Increased gas
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle aches
  • Low-grade fever
  • Fatigue

So far, the New Jersey Department of Health has identified one case of cyclospora infection that officials believe is related to the multi-state outbreak. To date in 2013, there has been 8 cases of the illness in New Jersey.

The majority of the reported cases have been in Iowa, Texas and Nebraska. The Department is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other states impacted by the outbreak to determine the source of infection and any ongoing health risks.