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Health Officials Look For Cause Of Cyclospora Outbreak

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (CBS 2/FOX 28) -- The Linn County Public Health Department is investigating an outbreak of cyclospora -- a disease that causes 57 days of watery diarrhea.

"Definitely got our attention. Our first reportable case was early June," said Barbara Chadwick, Linn County Public Health Department.

Since June, the number of patients has only gone up -- now at 71 statewide. Thirty of those with the illness were reported in Linn County.

"We're kind of stepping back, going, 'Hmmm, why are we so special here?' And we honestly don't know yet," Chadwick said.

The last reported cases in Iowa were 20 years ago, when ten incidents of the illness were reported.

Cyclospora is a parasite that is spread from fecal material to your mouth. Chadwick suspects fresh fruits and vegetables but is not ruling out contaminated water either.

"It's scary," said Cheryl Du Charme, general manager at Red Roof Inn in Cedar Rapids.

Employees at Red Roof Inn test the pool water every four hours to make sure it is safe.

"Having a pool, that's for their luxury and their convenience, so that's a responsibility we take on and we're happy to do," Cheryl said.

Cyclospora does not discriminate on age. Health officials have seen patients from toddlers to the elderly and everywhere in between.

Chadwick said the simplest things you can do to protect yourself are wash your produce thoroughly under cold water, let it dry and wash your hands.

"Be healthy. Eat your fruits and vegetables, just like Mom says, but that's a good thing," Chadwick said.

Chadwick said health officials interview each patient that is diagnosed with cyclospora.

The goal is to find what they all have in common to see where the parasite came from. The health department said if you are showing symptoms, call your doctor immediately to get tested and treated.

There is a specific antibiotic that won't cure the illness, but could help minimize any long-term damage to your system.
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