Health districts in Northern Virginia are investigating a significant increase in the number of intestinal illnesses reported during the past month.
To date, there are 15 cyclosporiasis cases reported in the region, up from eight at this time last year. Additionally, more than 40 people from two large businesses in the area have reported gastrointestinal illness and are being investigated for suspected cyclosporiasis.
Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness causes by a microscopic parasite. People can become infected by consuming food or water contaminated with feces or stool that contains the parasite.
Past U.S. foodborne outbreaks of cyclosporiasis have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce.
Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting or cooking them to prevent cyclosporiasis, the Virginia Department of Health said in a statement. "Prewashed" fruits don't need to be washed again at home, but firm fruits and vegetables like melons and cucumbers should be scrubbed with a clean produce brush.
Washing hands, cutting away damaged or bruised areas on fruits and vegetables, and refrigerating cut, peeled or cooked produce as soon as possible also will help prevent the disease.
Health districts are working to identify the potential source of the outbreak. The Virginia Department of Health is also investigating.