The number of North Texans sick with cyclospora, a rare infection spread through raw fruits and vegetables, is growing.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Tarrant County had seen the most cases with 10 people sick. There were nine cases in Dallas County. Six people had been infected in Collin County and Denton County reported five cases.
The infection leaves victims with serious gastrointestinal discomfort, which can last for weeks.
The parasite cyclospora leaves its waste on the leaves and skin of vegetables and fruit.
Health authorities are urging citizens to thoroughly wash and clean their produce. Local organic grower Tom Spicer suggests soaking fruits and veggies in warm water and scrubbing them with a firm brush.
“So when you go to scrub it, whatever is on it is loosened up, and rinse it again. Dry it off,” said Spicer.
Babies, children and the elderly are particularly susceptible to the cyclospora infection. People with weakened immune systems are at risk too, mainly because of the risk of dehydration from severe diarrhea.
According to the Mayo Clinic, lettuce, fresh basil, and imported raspberries have all caused cyclospora outbreaks in the U.S. in the past.
Unfortunately, even careful washing may not guarantee the removal of parasites from uncooked fruits and vegetables. However, public health officials say cooking or heating vegetables will kill the cyclspora infection.