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CDC: More than 275 have unidentified stomach bug

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

Federal health authorities say more than 275 people in seven states have now been sickened with an unidentified stomach bug -- one case is in Illinois and several dozen in surrounding states including Iowa and Wisconsin.

The Food and Drug Administration is investigating the cyclospora infections, which are often found in tropical or subtropical countries and have been linked to imported fresh produce in the past.

"I work in a produce store so I know that we always wash everything, you have to do it, no matter what," says Carlos Acosta.

"I'm from the old school so even though the package says don't wash, it's been clean, I still do it," Rosemary Kraft, a grandmother, comments.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the infection has been reported in Iowa, Nebraska, Texas, Wisconsin, Georgia, Connecticut and New Jersey. Most of the illnesses occurred from mid-June to early July. The CDC says it isn't clear whether the cases are all linked.

The illness is spread when people ingest foods or water contaminated with feces. The agency said it isn't clear whether the cases are all linked.

The CDC is taking no chances and on its website says fresh imported raspberries, basil, snow peas and mesclun lettuce have been implicated in U.S. outbreaks of cyclosporiasis since the mid-1990's.

Epidemiologist Dr. Emily Landon says washing produce is the best defense.

"They really need to be soaked in water a couple of times, you know sort of rinsed through with water and then dried off afterwards," Dr. Emily Landon explains. "Cyclospora is a tiny little organism that causes diarrhea even in healthy people.  It is a parasite but we treat it with antibiotics just like we do most other infections."

Other symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss and stomach cramps.

"In most people there's no need for treatment," Dr. Landon says. " It's a self-limited disease that last maybe a few days or up to a month in some patients.

Social media sites are already flooded with warnings about the bug from doctors and medical groups though Dr. Landon says most cases are in South America since the bacteria thrives in warm, moist soil.

"The case in Illinois is probably imported from travel to one of the other states so we don't have any native cases," Dr. Landon says. "We don't think whatever is causing this is distributed in Illinois but we don't know yet so we have to give it a bit more time before we know for sure."


The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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