U.S.: more information needed on cyclospora source, says PMA

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U.S.: more information needed on cyclospora source, says PMA

Produce Marketing Association (PMA) experts say there is still "more to learn" about the cyclospora outbreak that has now affected 378 people in 15 U.S. states and New York City, with 21 hospitalizations. cyclospora microbe panorama _ Microbe Wiki

The health departments of Iowa and Nebraska have linked the outbreak to bagged salad, but in conversation with www.freshfruitportal.com, the PMA's Dr. Bob Whitaker and Dr. Jim Gorny emphasized the need to wait on conclusions from other states, and ultimately the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

"I was surprised frankly that it would be a bagged salad because cyclospora hasn't generally been linked with bagged salads in the past," said Whitaker, who is the PMA's chief science and technology officer.

"There is an outbreak and it may in fact be associated with produce. Certainly we’re not backing away from that, but we need to understand more so we can learn from it.

"What’s interesting about cyclospora is it's typically found in tropical and subtropical regions of the world," added Gorny, produce safety technical committee chair.

Both experts said they were not denying the results from Iowa and Nebraska, but were still waiting to see evidence and wanted to know whether all cases of the disease would be linked to the same food source.

"It’s important to expeditiously identify the food vehicle but it’s just as important that they get it correct. Again we’re not doubting, we just want to make sure it is the right food vehicle," Gorny said.

Gorny said the fact cyclospora was a parasite made it more challenging to trace the cause.

"Typically with regard to foodborne illness outbreaks we’re used to dealing with things like E.coli 0157:H7, Salmonella, those are culturable - you can grow those up in petri dishes.

"For Cyclospora, there's no way to grow it in petri plates or dishes. It's a very difficult thing to detect, to enumerate, it's just not very common."

He added that the CDC and FDA had so far been unable to identify clusters of illnesses, and this gave the investigation less statistical power.

"We don't envy them. They're in a very difficult position."

"The most important thing is to be able to go back and find out what went wrong to prevent it from happening again," Whitaker said.

Whitaker hoped the parasite had "run its course" as the last illness was reported on July 13, but the issue was always subject to additional reports from different states and counties.

Whitaker and Gorny emphasized that with any outbreak their first thoughts always went to the people affected by it.

Gorny described the disease as a form of gastroenteritis, or what would be known as 'traveller's diahorrea' for many who travel outside the United States, with other symptoms including dehydration, mild fever, abdominal cramps and weight loss.

"It’s just not pleasant and if left untreated it can last for  up to 56 days," he said.

Photo: Microbe Wiki



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