Officials Issue Health Advice in Wake of New Illness
Albany, June 21 -- State Health Commissioner Barbara A. DeBuono, M.D., today urged individuals to seek medical treatment if they have diarrhea that persists for more than three days.
The Commissioner's message comes as seven states and cities, including New York City, are investigating outbreaks of cyclosporidiosis. The diarrheal disease, caused by the parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis, has in some cases been associated with consumption of fresh strawberries, raspberries, or both.
"We have asked local health departments, hospitals and laboratories across New York State to test for cyclosporidiosis when patients have undiagnosed diarrhea," Dr. DeBuono said. "The more information we can gather about this disease, the better we will be able to assess the health risk."
Cyclosporidiosis was only recently identified in the United States. The disease is characterized by gastrointestinal symptoms which include diarrhea of a long duration, as well as abdominal cramps, loss of appetite, weight loss and fatigue. Although the illness is rarely serious, Dr. DeBuono said treatment with an antibiotic, trimethoprim sulfamethoxazole, can speed recovery. Patients should seek their physician's advice before taking medicine to control their symptoms. Over-the-counter products will not kill the parasite that causes cyclosporidiosis.
So far, only sporadic cases of cyclosporidiosis have been identified in New York, all of which have been linked to New York City. Raspberries implicated in a recent New York outbreak of the illness were not grown in the United States. Epidemiological evidence from other states and Toronto, Canada, shows an association between consumption of strawberries and cyclosporidiosis, but there is no way to test fruit for the presence of cyclospora.
Dr. Donald Davidsen, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets said, "Unfortunately, there is no test that can determine if cyclospora is on fruits and vegetables. Therefore, it is recommended that consumers buy only New York-grown produce and also be sure to wash all fruits and vegetables prior to eating. Again, I want to assure New York consumers that no New York State grown-produce has been implicated in cases of cyclosporidiosis.
Although methods of preventing this new disease are not well understood, health experts say taking traditional precautions might help. "The old advice remains the best advice," Dr. DeBuono reiterated. "Wash all fresh produce thoroughly before eating it, and see your doctor if you suspect infection."
6/21/96-77 OPAContact: Claudia Hutton, Director, Public Affairs (518) 474-7354
New York State Department of Health Posted 7/1/96