The cyclospora parasite causes severe diarrhea and other symptoms.
Usually it travels into the United States on imported fruits or vegetables – typically on produce like raspberries that are tough to wash.
Since late June, the CDC has found 467 cases nationwide.
There are 204 cases in Texas. Thirteen are in Fort Bend and six in Harris County.
Dr. Umair Shah is the health authority for Harris County.
He says investigators are still interviewing victims about things like: “where they might have eaten; what kinds of foods they eat; what kinds of restaurants they might go to — those kinds of things, to try to determine if there’s a pattern.”
In Iowa and Nebraska, investigators traced the illness to a salad mix served at Olive Garden and Red Lobster.
The salad mix came from a farm in Mexico.
But in Texas, state health officials say they don’t know yet if the salad mix is the cause here.
Cynthia Chappell studies infectious disease at the UT School of Public Health in Houston.
“This particular parasite, cyclospora, is very tough. It is passed as a cyst and that cyst has a very tough coat on it. And so it can survive while it’s sitting on that fruit waiting for the next host to come along and eat it.”
Chappell notes that cooking will kill the parasite, and washing fruits and vegetables should help.
Even if you do get infected, the illness often goes away on its own or is easily treated with antibiotics.