What’s Making So Many Sick Across US?

It’s the easiest way to add a quick and nutritious side dish to any meal–a salad. And whoever invented pre-washed lettuce in a bag was a genius. But what if the bagged salad is the cause of the recent cyclosporo stomach bug, responsible for sickening more than 350 people in at least 15 states.

Cyclospora is a rare parasite that causes a lengthy gastrointestinal illness, and outbreaks of the illness have been reported in 15 states. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Tuesday that it’s not clear whether all of the illnesses are linked to a single source.

Iowa has reported the most cases of the cyclospora bug, with 143 people falling ill. An investigation by the Iowa Department of Public Health has linked a prepackaged salad mix to the outbreak, after the agency determined at least 80% of reported cases were exposed to the same mix, reported CBS News. The infection is thought to be caused to  the parasite cyclospora, found in contaminated food or drinking water.

“Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is still actively pursuing all leads and hasn’t implicated any single food item as the cause of the outbreak in all states,” said CDC spokeswoman Sharon Hoskins. “We’re still not sure if the cases in all of the states are linked to the same outbreak.”

The mix, contains iceberg and romaine lettuce, carrots and red cabbage. Ingredients in the mix are not believed to be Iowa-grown. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, the salad mix is no longer being sold in the state.

The bug causes watery diarrhea that if untreated can last an average of 57 days. Other symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, bloating, increased gas, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches and low-grade fever.

According to the CDC, cases have also been found in Texas, Nebraska, Florida, Wisconsin, Illinois, Georgia, Missouri, Arkansas, Connecticut, Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Ohio.

The FDA recommends safe food handling and preparation measures, including washing hands, utensils and surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after handling food and thoroughly washing all fresh produce before consumption.