In this image provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a photomicrograph of a fresh stool sample, which had been prepared using a 10% formalin solution, and stained with modified acid-fast stain, reveals the presence of four Cyclospora cayetanensis oocysts in the field of view. Iowa and Nebraska health officials said Tuesday, July 30, 2013, that a prepackaged salad mix is the source of a cyclospora outbreak that sickened more than 178 people in both states. Cyclospora is a rare parasite that causes a lengthy gastrointestinal illness. (AP Photo/Centerd for Disease Control and Prevention)
This is the microscopic culprit blamed for a nationwide health scare. It is called "Cyclospora," and it's a parasite that causes diarrhea, abdominal pain and flu-like symptoms. The most common source for infection in humans is contaminated food or water.
372 cases of Cyclospora have been reported in 15 states. Now health officials in Iowa and Nebraska say they know why.
Steven mandernach/iowa dept. Of inspections and appeals
"we found that a prepackaged salad mix that includes a variety of things, including iceberg and romaine lettuce, also cabbage and carrots, was what we believe to the vehicle for this illness," Steven Mandernach said. He works with the Iowa department of inspections and appeals.
A specific brand has not been named, but a report says the salad came through "national distribution channels."
The outbreak may be nearing an end. Nebraska officials say the contaminated produce is no longer in the state's food supply. Their message: keep eating salad.
"Definitely, the healthy effects of salad are better for you than the very small risk that you might contract an illness," Mandernach said.
But consumers are urged to wash fresh fruits and vegetables well, and read labels on prepackaged produce.
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