An ill­ness on the rise

Par­a­site spread by con­tam­i­nated wa­ter or pro­duce has in­fected 14 lo­cally since June.

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Soumya Kar­la­mangla soumya. kar­la­mangla @la­times.com Twit­ter: @skar­la­mangla

Health of­fi­cials warned this week that an un­usu­ally high num­ber of patients in Los Angeles County have been in­fected with a par­a­site that causes a se­vere stom­ach ill­ness and can last for months if not treated.

From June through Aug. 1 this year, 14 peo­ple in the county were di­ag­nosed with the in­testi­nal in­fec­tion cy­clospo­ri­a­sis, ac­cord­ing to lo­cal health of­fi­cials.

Peo­ple typ­i­cally con­tract the in­fec­tion when they drink wa­ter or eat fresh pro­duce that has been con­tam­i­nated with fe­ces con­tain­ing the par­a­site Cy­clospora cayeta­nen­sis.

Health of­fi­cials say they don’t know how the re­cent cases were spread or whether they were re­lated, but pre­vi­ous cy­clospora out­breaks in the U.S. have been linked to rasp­ber­ries, basil, cilantro and snow peas.

There were seven cy­clospo­ri­a­sis cases in L.A. County in 2016, zero in 2015 and two in 2014, ac­cord­ing to the health de­part­ment.

Cy­clospo­ri­a­sis is also on the rise na­tion­wide.

Two-hun­dred and six peo­ple in 27 states were in­fected with cy­clospo­ri­a­sis be­tween May and Aug. 2 this year, com­pared with 88 na­tion­wide dur­ing the same time pe­riod last year, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion. Eigh­teen peo­ple have ended up in the hos­pi­tal this year.

Patients usu­ally start hav­ing symp­toms, which can in­clude di­ar­rhea, vom­it­ing, weight loss and nau­sea, about seven days af­ter in­gest­ing the par­a­site. Patients re­quire an­tibi­otics to re­cover.

Health of­fi­cials say wash­ing fruits and veg­eta­bles with wa­ter and a brush can reduce the risk of cy­clospo­ri­a­sis. Care­ful, regular hand­wash­ing be­fore han­dling food and af­ter us­ing the bath­room is also im­por­tant. The par­a­site, which can­not be seen with the naked eye, can­not be passed from per­son to per­son.

Lab­o­ra­to­ries typ­i­cally don’t look for Cy­clospora cayeta­nen­sis, so health of­fi­cials re­mind doc­tors to re­quest test­ing for it if patients re­port pro­longed di­ar­rhea.

Scott Sady As­so­ci­ated Press

RASP­BERRY plants are burned dur­ing a cy­clospo­ri­a­sis out­break in Gu­atemala.

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