State health officials are investigating 56 cases of illness caused by the Cyclospora parasite since the beginning of May.
The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) is working with local health departments around the state, and other state health departments dealing with outbreaks, to determine whether there is a common infection source.
Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness caused by consuming food or water contaminated with the microscopic Cyclospora parasite.
The main symptom is watery diarrhea, lasting a few days to a few months. Additional symptoms may include loss of appetite, fatigue, weight loss, abdominal cramps, bloating, increased gas, nausea, vomiting and a low fever. Symptoms may come and go multiple times over a period of weeks or months.
People with symptoms similar to those listed above should contact a health care provider for treatment.
A recent health advisory asked providers to test patients who have diarrhea lasting more than a few days or diarrhea accompanied by severe loss of appetite or fatigue. Health care providers should promptly report cases so that public health can investigate them and attempt to determine the source in order to head off future cases.
Domestic outbreaks in the past have been associated with the consumption of freshly imported produce, including pre-packaged salad mix, raspberries, basil, snow peas and mesclun greens. Texas has had several cilantro-related outbreaks.
DSHS recommends thoroughly washing all fresh produce, but that may not entirely eliminate the risk because the parasite is notably difficult to wash off. Cooking the produce will kill the parasite and infection is generally not transmitted through person-to-person contact.
More than 300 cases of cyclosporiasis were reported in Texas last year.