TYLER (KYTX) - A nasty stomach bug has state health officials on high alert. They're trying to figure out what caused a recent spike in cyclospora illnesses.
Dozens of cases have been reported across the state this year -- most of them within the last month.
Officials still haven't figured out exactly where the source of the contamination is, but past cyclospora outbreaks have been linked to imported raspberries, basil, snow peas and cilantro.
The recent surge in cyclosporiasis illnesses has so far baffled Texas health officials, with 77 confirmed cases since January -- 69 of those in the past month alone.
"We've seen a real increase in this in the last month," NET Health Chief Executive Officer George Roberts said.
"That's quite a few, so we're monitoring it. What we're trying to figure out now is where it's coming from," Dr. Paul McGaha, with the Texas Department of State Health Services, said.
Cyclosporiasis is caused by the microscopic parasite cyclospora, and though it's probably not deadly, experts say it can lead to serious health issues.
"It's very uncomfortable, number one, but number two, you can get dehydrated and that can cause some greater problems," Roberts said.
The CDC, FDA and health departments across the state are warning people to be on the lookout for symptoms, like diarrhea, nausea, fatigue and loss of appetite.
"If people get ill with consistent diarrhea over several days, they need to see their doctor and get tested for it and treated," McGaha said.
Symptoms usually begin about a week after exposure, and if left untreated, could last for weeks -- or even months.
"It could go away on its own, but the odds are you may have it for a while, and it could only get worse," Roberts said.
This isn't the first time we've seen cyclospora here in Texas. Last year, we had 351 cases -- more than any other state.
"Watch for it in imported produce, so any produce that's been imported from outside of the United States," Roberts said.
There are things you can do to lessen your chances of getting the illness.
First, wash all of your produce -- especially anything imported from outside the U.S. And avoid cross-contamination by making sure you don't use the same knife to cut multiple fruits or vegetables.
Another thing to keep in mind is that washing your produce won't always kill the parasite, so if you really want to be safe, experts say you should cook it.
If you notice any symptoms mentioned above, see your doctor immediately. Most cases of cyclosporiasis can be treated with an antibiotic.