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CDC: Cyclospora parasite behind more than 275 illnesses

A foodborne stomach bug of mysterious origin is now responsible for more than 275 cases of intestinal illness, the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention said Wednesday.

The infections, called cyclosporiasis, have hit residents in at least seven states: Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Wisconsin, Georgia, Connecticut and New Jersey.

Illinois and Kansas have also reported once case each, but those victims may have developed the intestinal illness out of state. At least ten people have been hospitalized in three states.

More than 125 of the cases are in Iowa. The Iowa Department of Public Health said in a statement Wednesday that its investigation indicates fresh vegetables, not fruit, may be the source of the illness.

Cyclosporiasis is caused by the parasite, cyclospora, found in contaminated food or drinking water.

Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University, told CBS This Morning Thursday that cyclospora is a "tenacious critter because it can produce a prolonged, watery, very uncomfortable diarrhea" in addition to other symptoms.

That's because the parasite attacks the small intestines, causing the diarrhea (which can last up to two months), loss of appetite, weight loss, cramping, bloating, gas, nausea and fatigue. Vomiting and low-grade fever could occur less commonly, according to CDC.

It takes about one week for people who are infected to get sick. Schaffner says people who think they've been infected with the parasite can go to a doctor where they can get tested and treated.

Antibiotics, rest and plenty of fluids can treat the illness.

Most of the illnesses in the current outbreak occurred from mid-June through early July. The CDC pointed out its investigation found that those who have been affected were not at a social gathering or event together.

The Food and Drug Administration says people should practice safe food handling and preparation recommendations, including washing hands, utensils and surfaces with hot, soapy water before and after handling foods.

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