😮 A parasitic outbreak is making New Jersey residents sick

💩 The outbreak is caused by food or water contaminated with human feces

😕 Health officials have not been able to find a source for the outbreak

If you've been feeling sick with some kind of stomach bug, it could be linked to an outbreak of a parasite that has infected individuals in 31 states, including New Jersey.

State and federal health officials are warning of an outbreak of Cyclospora cayetanensis.

Cyclospora parasite under microscope CDC.gov
Cyclospora parasite under microscope

It is typically spread by eating food or drinking water contaminated with human feces.

There are nearly 600 confirmed cases nationwide and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report at least 55 people have been hospitalized.


According to the CDC, infection can lead to frequent explosive bowel movements, stomach cramps, increased gas, nausea and fatigue and can also include flu-like symptoms including body aches and fever.

Unlike other stomach bugs, Cyclospora cayetanensis rarely goes away on it's own if left untreated.

Symptoms can continue for weeks. You may feel better for a while, but symptoms often return. Health officials say this pattern can go on for months.

What causes it?

Typically, outbreaks are linked to contaminated food sources.

Cyclospora parasite under microscope CDC.gov
Cyclospora parasite under microscope

The FDA is investigating potential sources, but has yet to identify any.

Outbreaks in Georgia and Alabama were linked earlier this year to imported broccoli.

Previous outbreaks have also been linked to food handlers not washing their hands after using the bathroom.

How is it treated?

The most common treatment for Cyclospora cayetanensis is the antibiotic Trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazole, according to the CDC.

Cyclospora parasite under microscope CDC.gov
Cyclospora parasite under microscope

Health officials say people who are in poor health or who have weakened immune systems may be at higher risk for severe or prolonged illness if the parasite is left untreated.

How to avoid it

According to the CDC website, consumers and retailers should always follow safe fruit and vegetable handling recommendations:

Wash: Wash hands with soap and warm water before and after handling or preparing fruits and vegetables. Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and counter tops with soap and hot water between the preparation of raw meat, poultry, and seafood products and the preparation of fruits and vegetables that will not be cooked.

Prepare: Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting, or cooking. Fruits and vegetables that are labeled “prewashed” do not need to be washed again at home. Scrub firm fruits and vegetables, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush. Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating.

Store: Refrigerate cut, peeled, or cooked fruits and vegetables as soon as possible, or within 2 hours. Store fruits and vegetables away from raw meat, poultry, and seafood.

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