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Foodborne Gastrointestinal Illness Moving Across North Texas

NORTH TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) - A rare foodborne illness is making its way across the state and health workers aren't sure exactly where the contamination is originating.

North Texas is dealing with a growing number of cases from an outbreak of cyclosopriasis. Cyclosopriasis is an intestinal illness caused by the cyclospora parasite.

The disease is usually contracted when someone consumes fruits or vegetables that haven't been properly cleaned in the production process.

"Somewhere along the process the contamination has not been removed thoroughly enough and it gets into our food supply," explained Dr. Christopher Perkins, the director of Dallas County Health and Human Services.

Statewide there have been more than two-dozen cases of the gastrointestinal infection reported. Dallas County has reported eight cases of the illness.

Tarrant County Public Health confirmed that they are investigating 10 cases– more than any other county in Texas.

As medical workers continue treating patients with the illness, the search continues for the origin.

"We suspect it's a common food source [but] haven't been able to identify what it is," Perkins said. "I encourage anyone who's bought fruits and vegetables to thoroughly wash, or cook the food, until we find what the source is."

Scotty Alport of Fort Worth said he has never worried about the fresh fruits and vegetables he feeds his two kids. After learning about the outbreak on the way to the grocery store Tuesday night, he said he might have to adjust his shopping list.

"I guess I'm going to get frozen food," said Alport.

For those who get sick, the symptoms of the illness are quite unpleasant and can last up to two months.

Perkins said those infected could experience, "Stomach cramps, bloating, pain, gas, nausea, fatigue, weight loss… it usually presents itself about a week or so on average after the individual has been exposed to the organism."

In the past, cyclospora has been linked to fresh produce, including raspberries, lettuce, basil and snow peas.

More than a hundred cases have been reported this year in Iowa and Nebraska.

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