It's summertime. We are supposed to get a break from getting sick this time of year, right?
While that is mostly true, as we don't usually have any big outbreaks like we do during cold and flu season, it does seem like there is always something going around during the summer. This includes diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever (tick-borne diseases), West Nile virus infections (from mosquitoes), and many viral infections that are more common during the summer months.
And we shouldn't forget those infections that are even rarer, but which are more common this time of year, like Naegleria fowleri infections. This parasite can affect children who swim in warm, polluted and stagnant water, such as a lake or poorly chlorinated swimming pool, causing amebic meningoencephalitis.
What are we seeing this year?
The Cyclospora parasite is causing infections in multiple states, including Iowa, Georgia, Florida, Nebraska, and Texas.
While we normally see about 120 to 179 cases of cyclosporiasis each year, the CDC has already reported 108 cases in the United States. In 2010, when there were 179 cases of cyclosporiasis, a recent high, there had only been 85 cases by mid-July.
How do you get cyclosporiasis?
Unlike some other summertime outbreaks that are linked to water parks and swimming pools, like cryptosporidiosis, people usually get infected with the Cyclospora parasite by eating contaminated food. Past outbreaks of cyclosporiasis in the United States have been linked to contaminated raspberries, basil, snow peas, and mesclun lettuce. Contaminated water can also cause infections, especially contaminated fresh water.
With the rise in cases, it is important to see your doctor if you think that your kids might have any of the symptoms of cyclosporiasis, including watery diarrhea, loss of appetite, stomach cramps, nausea, fatigue, and vomiting. These symptoms may last up to a month and may include very frequent, explosive diarrhea.
A stool test can help to diagnose cyclosporiasis, which can then be treated with the antibiotic Bactrim.
And to avoid getting sick, be sure to:
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them.
- Encourage your kids to not drink water from swimming pools, streams, or lakes, etc.
- Teach your kids to wash their hands properly.
Parents should also be sure to keep their kids out of the water when they have diarrhea, pink eye, hepatitis A, or other contagious diseases so that they don't get other people sick.