Minn. probes outbreak of parasite-borne illness

Published 10:00 pm Friday, June 15, 2018

By Minnesota Public Radio News

Minnesota health officials are investigating an outbreak of a parasite-borne infection that spreads through consumption of imported fresh produce.

The state Health Department said 37 people have been sickened by cyclospora infections within the past month.

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Officials traced the outbreak to two clusters. One involves the Sonora Grill in Minneapolis, where 17 people reported becoming ill. The other involves multiple Kwik Trip locations in Minnesota where people bought vegetable trays.

Investigators want to speak with people who ate at Sonora Grill over the weekend of May 18-20, regardless of whether they became ill, the department said in a statement, adding that the restaurant is “fully cooperating with the investigation, and investigators say they do not have any indication that there is an ongoing risk” to customers.

“Even if you have not been sick, your information can help us identify what may have caused these illnesses and prevent future illnesses,” Trisha Robinson, a Health Department epidemiologist supervisor, said in a statement Friday. The Health Department contact number is 651-201-4891.

The Kwik Trip outbreaks are linked to people who bought Del Monte vegetable trays at Kwik Trips around the state; 20 cases have been identified. “Kwik Trip is cooperating with the investigation and voluntarily removed the vegetable trays from their shelves,” the department said.

“We do not have any indication at this time that the two outbreaks are related,” Robinson said. “Besides these outbreak cases, there are other cases of cyclosporiasis that do not appear to be related to either of these outbreaks, which is not unexpected for this time of year. We typically see increases in Cyclospora infections from May through August.”

Infection caused by the parasite cyclospora is known as cyclosporiasis. Symptoms typically include watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, loss of appetite and weight loss and people typically become ill about a week after exposure, although it can be up to two weeks, the department said. Diarrhea can last several weeks or longer if not treated.

The parasite doesn’t die easily. Washing imported produce, or “routine chemical disinfection or sanitizing methods” are unlikely to kill it, the department added.