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News has broken that several workplace cafeterias were linked to an outbreak of foodborne illness. Two of the cafeterias are in Northern Virginia: one at Capital One headquarters in McLean, and the other at the Valo Park Building in McLean. The third is CarMax. This is what we know about the Carmax Cyclospora Outbreak:
“We received a report from a business because they had identified a cluster of cases among their employees,” Dr. Lillian Peake, State Epidemiologist with the Virginia Department of Health said. “This is caused by a parasite called Cyclospora,” Dr. Peake said. “People who get sick from Cyclospora develop watery diarrhea.”
Dr. Peake said VDH started investigating three clusters of intestinal illness potentially connected to three different workplace cafeterias in early June.
Four of the 39 confirmed cases of this foodborne illness happened in Central Virginia, and Dr. Peake said it’s very possible we may see more.
According to the Virginia Department of Health’s public release, “These cafeterias are not widely accessible to the general public. Health officials are working directly with business owners and affected individuals. VDH appreciates the ongoing cooperation of the businesses in assisting in this effort. They share our goal of ensuring the health and well-being of their employees and guests. Public health investigations are complex and it takes time to gather information about exposures, risk factors and illnesses. In some cases outbreak investigations may not identify a likely source.”
Since May 1, 2019 there have been 39 confirmed cases of Cyclosporiasis in Virginia (Central Region–4, Eastern Region–2, Northern Region–27, Northwest Region–4, Southwest Region–2). The five-year average for the same time frame from 2014 to 2018 was 9 cases.
Workplace cafeterias in the following locations are part of the ongoing investigation:
Cyclospora cayetanensis is a one-celled microscopic parasite. When people eat food or drink water contaminated with Cyclospora, they can develop the intestinal illness, Cyclosporiasis.
Infections of this kind through person-to-person contact are not likely, as process of maturation (sporulation) of the parasite is thought to require days to weeks.
People of all ages and health statuses are at risk for infection. The CDC reports that those who are living in or traveling to the tropics and subtropics may be at increased risk because Cyclosporiasis is endemic in some countries in these zones.
According to the CDC, it usually takes about one week for symptoms to develop. Cyclosporiasis causes watery diarrhea. Frequent, and sometimes explosive, bowel movements are common. People may also experience lack of appetite, weight loss, stomach pain or cramps, increased gas, bloating, nausea, or fatigue. Vomiting, headaches, fever, body aches, and flu-like symptoms have also been reported. People often report feeling unusually tired.
Without medical intervention, symptoms may persist from a few days to a month or more. Sometimes symptoms seem to go away only to return one or more times later.
Potentially. Although Cyclosporiasis usually is not life threatening, some more severe cases have reported complications during and after the infection. These complications include: malabsorption (inability for intestines to absorb nutrients), ongoing bowel issues, cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder), and Reiter’s Syndrome or Reactive Arthritis (inflammation and pain in joints). Those who are elderly, very young, or have compromised immune systems are the most likely to develop reoccurrence of the infection and/or complications.
Yes. Doctors treat Cyclospora with the antibiotics trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, also known by their brand names, Bactrim, Septra, or Cotrim. People experiencing diarrhea should also rest and drink plenty of fluids.
If you are allergic to sulfa drugs, the CDC recommends that you see your doctor to discuss other potential treatments.
Preventing the Spread of Cyclospora
Cyclospora infects food and water from contact with infected feces. To protect food, thoroughly wash and dry produce with clean water to ensure any residual contamination may be removed. Freezing and cooking food to an appropriate temperature may also help protect you from infection. If you are in a high risk area where water may be contaminated, boil water to kill the parasite prior to consuming. The body does not retain any immunity to the parasite, so having been infected before does not provide any protection for future infection.
VDH is still investigating the source of the outbreaks, but Dr. Peake says this particular type of foodborne illness is typically found on produce.
The Lange Law Firm
Our mission is to help families who have been harmed by contaminated food or water. When corporations cause Cyclospora food poisoning outbreaks or Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks, we use the law to hold them accountable. The Lange Law Firm, PLLC is the only law firm in the nation solely focused on representing families in food poisoning lawsuits and Legionnaires disease lawsuits.
If you or your child was infected with Cyclospora and are interested in making a legal claim for compensation, we have a Cyclospora lawyer ready to help you. Call us for a free no obligation legal consultation at (833) 330-3663 or send us an e-mail here.
By: Candess Zona-Mendola, Editor (Non-Lawyer)