OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) — A stomach illness is on the rise and officials can’t figure out the source. This illness is caused by consuming contaminated food and water.

After speaking with health experts here in Oklahoma, they said this is something they deal with every year, but this year has been worse than usual.

“It’s doubled because at the end of July it was just over 800, so there has been a thousand cases in the past month,” Aaron Wendelboe, Chair of Department of Biostatistics and Epidemiology at the Hudson College of Public Health, said.

There’s been a shocking rise in intestinal illnesses across the country, and here in Oklahoma.
Cyclosporiasis is caused by tiny parasites usually found in food.

“So it stems from eating raw, unwashed fruits and vegetables mostly,” Wendelboe said. “So it is not transmitted person to person. You really get it from that ingestion of the contaminated food or water.”

The problem is the FDA hasn’t pinpointed which food the outbreak is coming from.

The challenging thing is that we do not know which food products or maybe beverages to avoid,” Wendelboe said. “Right now, the FDA, the Food and Drug Administration does have to open investigations right now for Cyclosporiasis.”

Symptoms include stomach cramps, fever and extreme diarrhea. While the illness isn’t perceived to be life threatening, it has put people in the hospital.

“The majority of people really are going to get better without seeking any health care,” Wendelboe said. “Rounding into 2,000 cases this year, about 150 of them have been hospitalized. So, you know, I don’t want to say that the risk is nonexistent, but it is small.”

The Oklahoma State Department of Health sent us the following statement:

“In Oklahoma and nationally, cases have continued to decline since June. We are continuing to monitor any new cases as they are reported to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. 

Cyclospora is a seasonal illness where cases are expected to increase in the spring/summer months. Individuals at higher risk, such as young children, older adults and persons who are immunocompromised, should be aware that there are certain foods that are higher-risk for Cyclospora contamination and infection.

These foods have historically included seeded berries, fresh herbs, and leafy greens. If you experience watery diarrhea lasting longer than a week or diarrhea that comes and goes, speak to your healthcare provider. Healthcare providers should consider testing patients with these symptoms for Cyclospora.”

The good news is cases have been going down recently, but the CDC and FDA are still figuring out what the cause behind the illness is.

“So then when the CDC or the department analyzes those data, they can usually see like, you know, it’s interesting that we happened to see a cluster of people eating this particular fruit or vegetable or food item,” Wendelboe said.