An outbreak of an intestinal illness first detected in Northern Virginia last month now has been confirmed in Richmond and also throughout Maryland.
There typically are about nine cases a year of cyclosporiasis in the commonwealth; since May, 39 cases have been confirmed by the Virginia Department of Health.
Maryland’s Department of Health reports 42 cases have been confirmed in multiple jurisdictions across the state this year; 37 of those cases were reported over the last two weeks, corresponding with an overall recent rise in reported cyclosporiasis cases in other parts of the U.S.
Cases under investigation in Virginia involved workplace cafeterias that aren’t accessible to the general public:
- Capital One Building at 1600 Capital One Drive, McLean 22102
- Valo Park Building at 7950 Jones Branch Drive, McLean 22102
- CarMax at 12800 Tuckahoe Creek Parkway, Richmond 23238
Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness caused by a microscopic parasite. According to the Virginia Department of Health, “People can become infected by consuming food or water contaminated with feces or stool that contains the parasite.”
Symptoms range from cramping, bloating and gas, to intense diarrhea that can last several weeks if not treated.
Past outbreaks of cyclosporiasis have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce, such as raspberries, basil, snow peas, mesclun lettuce and cilantro. Safely handling fruit and vegetables is the best way to prevent the ailment.
Prevention tips from the Virginia Department of Health include:
- Wash hands with soap and warm water before and after preparing fruits and vegetables.
- Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting or cooking.
- Scrub firm fruits and vegetables, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush.
- Cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating.
- Refrigerate cut, peeled or cooked fruits and vegetables as soon as possible, or within two hours.
- Fruits and vegetables that are labeled “prewashed” do not need to be washed again at home.
Virginia and Maryland health departments continue to work to identify the potential source of the outbreaks.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.