A parasite outbreak tied to Del Monte veggie trays has sickened at least 200 people, the Centers for Disease Control confirmed last week. The pre-packed snacks sold at convenience stores and supermarkets in the Midwest contained fresh broccoli, cauliflower, celery sticks, carrots, and dill dip.
So far, laboratory results have confirmed 212 cases of cyclosporiasis, an intestinal infection caused by a single-celled parasitic organism. Most of the patients bought the produce at Kwik Trip and Kwik Star stores in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa in late May and early June.
Del Monte has already recalled the vegetable trays in those three states as well as Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan. The affected products have an expiration date of June 17, 2018 or earlier, so none should remain on the shelf.
The microscopic parasite, called Cyclospora cayetanensis, infects people through contaminated food or water. It is unlikely to spread from person t0 person, but ingesting Cyclospora can lead to a severe intestinal illness known as cyclosporiasis.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), most people with cyclosporiasis develop "frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements" about a week after consuming the affected food. The full list of unpleasant symptoms includes:
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Stomach cramps/pain
- Increased gas
- Body aches
- Other flu-like symptoms
Some people infected with the parasite don't develop any symptoms. Symptoms may also go away and then come back one or more times. During this current outbreak, at least seven people have already been hospitalized, although the disease is rarely life-threatening.
Luckily, the treatment for cyclosporiasis is usually fairly simple. A course of antibiotics kills off the parasite and prevents any future relapses.
Epidemiologists are still working to understand Cyclospora cayetanensis, which has caused outbreaks almost every year since the mid-'90s. Previous cases have stemmed from salad mixes, raspberries, herbs, and other imported produce, the New York Times reports.
If you have any Del Monte veggie trays lingering in your fridge, throw them away immediately. Washing the produce won't completely eliminate the pathogens. Of course, contact your doctor right away if you're experiencing any symptoms. This is one disease you definitely don't want to wait out.
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