Health officials urging shoppers to wash produce in light of parasite outbreak

There's an outbreak of cyclospora in Travis County. It's an illness that comes from parasites, and there are now 31 confirmed cases.

Henry Romo is dedicated to his produce shopping routine.

"After we buy it we tend to wash it," said Romo, shopper.

It's a step he is glad he's been taking now that he knows about cyclospora. It's an intestinal illness that spreads by eating or drinking food or water that's contaminated with feces.

"Nobody knows in nature where the reservoir is, but outbreaks in the last 20 years in the United States have been traced to a number of fresh produce," said Jeff Taylor, Epidemiologist for Austin-Travis County Health Department.

The produce Taylor says that the parasite could live in include raspberries, blackberries, snow peas, basil, cilantro and others.

"We're trying to sort out what may be the vehicle for the parasite this year. Is it cilantro? Could it be fresh berries"? said Taylor.

Taylor says Texas gets a lot of its fruits and vegetables from Mexico and that's where the parasite could be lurking. Out of the 31 cases in Travis County, Taylor says all were adults.

"I don't think most children like cilantro, so it's adults that eat food items with fresh cilantro in it," said Taylor.

Symptoms of the parasite include diarrhea, fever, nausea, abdominal cramping, fatigue and even weight loss. Taylor says this parasite can be stopped in in tracks, if people would just remember one thing.

"Wash your fruits and vegetables before you consume them," said Taylor.

"My mom is really specific on that too," said Romo.

Romo says he will continue to play things safe.

"You have to be careful with what you buy and with what you're buying, make sure it's clean and what not," said Romo.

This case count could increase. Health officials say they are interviewing people now who may be infected with the parasite.