NEW BIOLOGICAL BOMB
Public health officials
are seeking the cause of a recent outbreak of Cyclospora Cayetamensis, a protozoan
parasite. The microbe can cause cramping abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, nausea,
fever and extreme fatigue; it is treatable with antibiotics sold as Bactrim or
Septra, and is generally not fatal. A number of fresh fruits and vegetables have
been suggested as a carrier, but, at this point, there is no compelling evidence
and no common thread that can point to any cause.
Cyclospora, once thought to be linked to blue-green algae, has been identified
as a new protozoan parasite and is a relative of Cryptosporidium. Whereas Cryptosporidium
can be transmitted from one infected human to another human, Cyclospora requires
a period of time to work into the environment and must be ingested. Based on our
research, we are certain humans are most likely infected through ingestion of
water containing the infectious stage of the parasite, commonly called the oocyst
stage. Once acquired, it takes from four days to a week before signs of infection
are noted. The infection may last anywhere from one to four weeks. People who
are immune compromised are at greater risk, and therapeutic intervention is required.
Strong evidence indicates that humans are the only likely host of Cyclospora.
After 20 years of research, we are starting to define the epidemiological link
of Cyclospora to water. In Nepal, the organism was actually detected in water.
passes from an infected individual in unsporulated (immature) state and requires
one to two weeks time under ideal conditions to become infectious. Ideal conditions
which lead to Cyclospora becoming infectious include exposure to moisture and
temperatures of at least 25 degrees C, (77 to 89 degrees F.). A moist environment
is necessary for the organism to sporulate, and become infectious.
Cyclospora is an extremely difficult organism to identify, which may account for
some of the problems in pinpointing a cause of the illnesses recently observed.
Without confirmation, it is difficult to be sure that we are, in fact, confronting
a Cyclospora outbreak in all instances. The most important element in the identification
is an attempt to sporulate the organism in order to see the defining characteristics
of the infectious stage. One must look at the internal structure of the occyst
after it sporulates, and only then can one be 100 percent certain that the organism
is Cyclospora. If it turns out that some of the outbreaks have been caused by
another parasite, the ability to determine the source of the contamination will
be severely compromised.
Cyclospora be Spread by Food?
It is highly unlikely that fruits or vegetables could be the primary source of
infection in terms of growing or shipping practices. They would literally have
to be grown in human fecal waste and exposed to direct surface contact. It is
also unlikely that the organism can be transmitted from infected food handlers
because if their hands were contaminated with the feces, the organisms would still
be in an unsporulated and immature stage. Cyclospora would still need up to two
weeks to become infectious.
Virtually every past outbreak has occurred near water, whether it was a lake,
a reservoir tank on the top of a building or a cellar contaminated with sewer
this point in the investigation, of the current outbreak it is premature to hypothesize
about any specific food as a possible carrier of the parasite. In fact, such speculation
could compromise ongoing investigation.
Sterling and his colleague, Dr. Ortega are credited with identifying the Cyclospora
parasite and determining its maturation process. His team is recognized as among
the foremost authorities on the parasite."
Teresa Thorne, 408/724-1301
WIRE)--July 19, 1996--Since May 1996, CDC has received reports of clusters and
sporadic cases of infection with the parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis that occurred
in May and June in the United States and Canada(1). This report describes preliminary
findings of an investigation by the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior
Services (NJDHSS) and updates the findings of other ongoing investigations.
During June 17-26, 1996, NJDHSS received reports of 42 sporadic cases of laboratory-confirmed
Cyclospora infection (by light microscopic examination of a stool specimen) among
New Jersey residents. To assess possible risk factors for infection among persons
with sporadic cases, NJDHSS conducted a case-control study.
A case was defined as laboratory-confirmed Cyclospora infection and symptoms of
gastroenteritis (e.g., diarrhea) with onset during May 1 - June 20, 1996, in a
New Jersey resident aged greater than or equal to 18 years. Two age-matched (plus
or minus 10 years) controls (aged greater than or equal to 18 years) were selected
by random-digit dialing; to be eligible, controls could not have had loose stools
during the two-week period before onset of symptoms for the referent case-patient
(i.e., the period of interest).
In addition, case-patients and matched controls must have been in New Jersey during
the period of interest and not have traveled outside the United States and Canada
during the month before the symptom onset. Investigators interviewed 30 case-patients
and 60 controls by telephone and used a standardized questionnaire that asked
about possible exposures (including consumption of 17 fruits and 15 vegetables,
water and soil exposures, and animal contact) during the period of interest.
Case-patients and controls were similar by age (median age of case-patients: 47.5
years, range: 20-81 years, sex, and educational level. Twenty (69%) of 29-case-patients
and four (7%) of 60 controls had eaten raspberries. In multivariate conditional
logistic regression analysis, only consumption of raspberries was significantly
associated with illness (odds ratio and 95% confidence interval were undefined
because of a denominator of 0, p (less than) 0.001 (computed using the score test).
Consumption of strawberries was not significantly associated with illness.
Approximately 850 cases of laboratory-confirmed Cyclospora infection in persons
residing in the United States and Canada whose onset of illness was in May and
June 1996 have been reported to CDC and Health Canada. Approximately 14% of all
cases have been reported from Ontario, Canada; nearly all (approximately 99%)
of the other cases have been reported from states east of the Rocky Mountains.
Fourteen states, the District of Columbia, and Ontario are each investigating
clusters of cases related to specific events (e.g., a luncheon) and/or at least
30 sporadic cases (i.e., not related to any identified event).
Six other states have each reported less than or equal to 10 sporadic cases. Most
sporadic and event-related cases have occurred in immunocompetent adults. Fifteen
case-patients have been hospitalized, but no deaths have been reported. The most
recent event associated with cases occurred on June 8 (i.e., exposure date), and
the most recent laboratory-confirmed sporadic case occurred in a person with onset
of symptoms on June 27.
With the possible exception of a few events for which limited information is available,
raspberries were served at the 42 events under investigation. For 12 (29%) of
the events, raspberries were either the only berry served or were served separately
from other berries. Initial investigations of three events that occurred in May
had attributed risk for Cyclospora infection to consumption of strawberries; however,
further investigation indicated that raspberries and other berries also were served
(one event) or may have been served (two events). Preliminary findings of case-control
studies by health departments in Florida and New York City also indicate an association
between consumption and raspberries and risk for Cyclospora infection.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), CDC, and other health and food-safety
agencies in the United States and Canada are tracing the sources of the raspberries
that were served at the events. Findings from the first 21 tracebacks completed
by CDC and state agencies indicate that raspberries grown in some regions of Guatemala
either definitely were or could have been served at each of these events; for
17 of these 21 events, the only source of raspberries was Guatemala. Efforts are
ongoing to identify the specific source(s) of the raspberries and possible modes
Reported by: Health Protection Br, Health Canada, J Hoffmann, MD, Z Liu, MD, C
Genese, MBA, G Wolf, MBA, W Manley, MA, K Pilot, E Dalley, MA, L Finelli, DrPH,
Acting State Epidermiologist, New Jersey Dept of Health and Senior Svcs. Prevention
Effectiveness Activity, Office of the Director, and Div of Field Epidemiology,
Epidemiology Program Office; Foodborne and Diarrheal Diseases Br, Div of Bacterial
and Mycotic Diseases, and Div of Parasitic Diseases, National Center for Infectious
Diseases, CDC. -0-
Note to Editors: The multistate outbreak of infection with the emerging pathogen
Cyclospora has been investigated by state and local health departments, CDC, health
officials in Canada, and other organizations. Although the findings of these investigations
have demonstrated consistent associations between risk for Cyclospora infection
and antecedent consumption of raspberries, some case-patients have not reported
raspberry consumption; this finding may reflect poor recall and, for some persons
with cases not related to events, different sources of infections.
The preliminary investigations indicate that some regions of Guatemala were the
most likely sources of the epidemiologically implicated raspberries. The growing
season in Guatemala is ending, and recent imports of raspberries from that country
have markedly decreased. The specific mode of contamination of the raspberries
and whether contamination occurred in Guatemala or after the raspberries have
been shipped from the country have not yet been determined. CDC, FDA, the government
of Guatemala, growers, exporters, and trade associations are collaborating in
ongoing investigations to evaluate these issues. Since the latter half of June,
FDA has begun to examine shipments of raspberries from Guatemala for Cyclospora.
Cyclospora oocysts have not been found on any of the raspberries that have been
tested to date. FDA, CDC, and others are developing standardized methods for such
testing and are evaluating their sensitivity.
As always, produce should be thoroughly washed before it is eaten. This practice
should decrease but may eliminate the risk for transmission of Cyclospora. Health
departments that identify cases of Cyclospora infection should contact CDC's Division
of Parasitic Diseases, National Center for Infectious Disease, telephone 770/488-7760.
1. CDC. Outbreaks of Cyclospora cayetanensis infection -- United States, 1996.
MMWR 1996; 45:549-51.
Disease Control, 404/639-3286
AOL-- KEYWORD: GEORGIA NEW JERSEY CALIFORNIA
INDUSTRY KEYWORD: MEDICINE
BW0178 JUL 19,1996
4 p.m. EDT (2000 GMT)
By Mike Cooper
July 18 (Reuter) - Contaminated raspberries from Guatemala appear to have caused
intestinal illnesses that sickened hundreds of people in the United States and
Canada this spring, federal health officials said Thursday.
The U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said about 850 people
became ill because of cyclospora infection in 20 states, the District of Columbia
and the Canadian province of Ontario in May and June.
GUATEMALA CITY, July 19
(Reuter) - Guatemalan farmers have rejected a U.S. health report that pointed
to their raspberries as the cause of 850 cases of intestinal illness in the United
States and Canada this spring.
``They are still researching here and up to today they have not found any link
indicating Guatemalan raspberries are the problem,'' said Rodolfo Quezada, a berry
grower and exporter.
Quezada, a member of the Guatemalan berry commission, said the report by the U.S.
Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had failed to verify a link between
its raspberries and the cases of stomach sickness reported in 20 U.S. states,
the District of Columbia and the Canadian province of Ontario in May and June.
Editor: Steve Van Nattan
The following suggestion is what our family does. There is not official
approval of our actions, but all missionaries in the developing world follow these
defensive methods, or some method similar.
We know from its handling of AIDS that the CDC will not inform the American public
of a biological danger until it is very well developed. California and Texas
strawberries have also been under consideration as the carrier. Why? Mexicans
cross the borders to illegally work the fields in both states. The real
bomb may very well be that Mexico has sent us the microbes. The CDC would
find that very politically delicate, and they would take months to move on the
Here is my suggested way to avoid this biological bomb. Soak all vegetables
and fruit in a weak solution of bleach. A couple of capfuls in a sink of
water should be enough. Then let the vegies and fruit air dry to evaporate
Also, the fruit and vegies can be put in the sink and sprayed with a solution
of water soluble Lysol. This is the method we have been using for about
five years since we learned that AIDS can be transmitted just as easily as TB.
After spraying the vegies and fruit, let them sit for ten minutes, then
Do not assume that oranges and bananas are safe because they have a skin. Since
you must handle the fruit to eat it, you could easily become infected. Also,
American vegies and fruit are just as dangerous for other reasons. Grumpy
field hands in the lettuce fields have a nice little trick they like to play on
the gringos in the big cities. They urinate in heads of lettuce when nature
Be careful folks.
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