Stomach bug outbreak caused by Cyclospora parasite spreads to Kansas: FDA makes new rules

(WEWS) - A parasite is being blamed for a mysterious illness that has now hit the state of Kansas.

The CDC reports the number of people sickened by a spreading stomach bug has reached 285 people in 11 states, including Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Wisconsin, Georgia, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, Kansas and Missouri.

The cases in Kansas and Illinois may have been acquired out-of-state, CDC says. One of two Missouri cases was in Jackson County.

Much still remains unclear about the outbreak but it is now being attributed to a parasite called Cyclospora.

The parasite travels on food imported from outside the U.S. but experts cannot pinpoint exactly which ones. Snow peas, basil and berries have caused issues in the past.

The Food and Drug Administration says a lot of our food comes from abroad including about 50 percent of our fresh fruits and vegetables, but up until now importers like Wal-Mart have not had to ensure that their foreign suppliers are following American standards.

On Friday, FDA said they are requiring all of these food suppliers to verify through testing and paperwork that the foods they import are safe.

The director of microbiology at the University of Kansas hospital says the parasite can be deadly and can spread quickly. 

"They should wash their foods and they should be very careful about what they are eating especially if they are immunocompromised and it could be much more serious in some patients than others," said Rebecca Horvat.

An importer called Paris Brothers said they are not sure if any extra costs will trickle down to the consumer.

Cyclospora stows away in the body and then about a week later begins causing stomach pain and diarrhea. Other symptoms include weight loss, bloating and fatigue.

The CDC is investigating whether or not all of the cases are linked to the same outbreak.

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