BOSTON (CBS) — The Massachusetts Department of Public Health issued a warning after seeing a spike in cases of a foodborne illness called Cyclospora. There have been more than 100 cases since May 1, the majority of those falling in the greater Boston area.

For comparison, there have been 18 to 33 cases in each of the last three years.

The illness is caused by eating a parasite that has historically been linked to imported fresh produce, such as raspberries, basil, and snow peas. The DPH has not linked this outbreak with a particular food.

“Individual cases are usually associated with travel to warmer countries where the parasite is more common. However, only a small number of the recent Massachusetts cases have been tied to international travel,” said the DPH.

Cyclospora causes gastrointestinal symptoms, including “watery diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal cramping, nausea, and prolonged fatigue” about a week after eating the contaminated food. For many people, the infection will take care of itself within a few days, but those with symptoms should go to a doctor for an antibiotic.

Unlike salmonella and E.coli, Cyclospora cannot spread from person to person.

The DPH is working to identify what has caused the outbreak and in the meantime is reminding everyone to always practice safe fruit and vegetable handling:

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap before handling and preparing fruits and vegetables. Wash cutting boards, dishes, and knives between handling raw meat and fruits/vegetables.
  • Wash all fruits and vegetables in water before eating, cutting, or cooking. Use a clean produce brush on hard produce and cut away any bruised areas. Cooking also eliminates the risk of foodborne illnesses.
  • Store fruits and vegetables in the fridge within two hours of cutting or cooking them. Make sure they are not close to raw meat.

For more information, visit the DPH’s website.


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