Unusual Parasite Spreads Throughout Tri-State Region

Public health officials are on alert for a virus that can lead to a nasty stomach illness, a virus that's been spreading throughout the state.

The Siouxland District Health Department has been keeping an eye out for a parasite called Cyclospora.

It causes a rare intestinal illness that officials say has led to a recorded 22 cases in Iowa, 16 in Nebraska, and none so far in South Dakota.

Health officials and the C-D-C are taking the parasite very seriously.

It's an odd outbreak of an uncommon illness that has health officials puzzled. So what is it?

"It's a parasite called cyclospora that is a fairly uncommon parasite. You--you know we've had maybe 10 cases in Iowa in the last 20 years up until this year so a fairly unusual parasite for us to see. But it is a parasite that is usually (pause) passed to people through infected food and water," said Siouxland District Health Department Dep. Dir. Tyler Brock.

The infection can affect any person despite your health condition: good or bad.

"A normal, healthy person with a great immune system will have 57 days of diarrhea on average," said Dr. Patricia Quinlisk, an epidemiologist

Symptoms often appear about a week after consumption of the fecal-contaminated produce or water. The most common of the symptoms can include watery diarrhea, fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite and more.

One easy way to make sure that you don't get the parasite is to take preventive measures such as the following: take and separate your produce, turn on cold water and rinse thoroughly.

Officials stress that steps like these, along with washing your hands, are the best ways to avoid getting the parasite.

Some shoppers already use or plan to use these tips.

"I usually wash it really good. You know make sure it's clean with real cold water and that's what I do," said William Charles Tweedy.

"Well, I'm not sure that I'm going to take that much extra... I mean I think I'm pretty conscious to begin with," said Anne Cowley.

Regardless of what your normal routine is, with cases continuing to increase throughout the tri-state area, consumers should take precautions and consult healthcare providers if any symptoms arise and ask to be tested.

If a person does get infected, the symptoms can last anywhere from a few days to several months.

There is an antibiotic that can help ease the symptoms.

But the best option to avoid all of this is just take a little more time in the kitchen to wash your produce thoroughly.