Right now, over 400 people in as many of 15 states are not loving it as they have contracted a parasite from eating McDonald’s salads. The Center for Disease Control reported that the Cyclospora parasite has been found in case after case of people eating salads at the popular fast food chain.
Health officials from Connecticut, Iowa, Illinois, Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, South Dakota, Minnesota, Missouri, Virginia, Tennessee and Wisconsin all contacted the CDC with a similar story- and a similar diagnosis.
The Cyclospora parasite is a microscopic organism that commonly comes into contact with humans after it is introduced to either food or water. The most common symptoms are watery diarrhea, cramping, gas, bloating, nausea, weight loss, reduced appetite, and fatigue.
Those afflicted usually do not need to seek medical treatment unless the symptoms last for more than a week, or if they become weak or dehydrated. Having traveled through an area endemic to the parasite is another major risk factor as stronger strains of the organism can be dangerous. The recommended treatment is a one week course of antibiotics.
After McDonald’s was informed of the outbreak, the fast food chain stopped serving salads in over 3,000 locations across the country. They closed locations which were supplied by the same produce supplier who provided them with salad mix in the locations where the outbreak occurred.
Pennsylvania State University food safety expert, Martin Bucknavage told CBS News that in order for this outbreak to occur, “Some water had to become contaminated and then used to irrigate the crops that become salad. These spores get into the water and survive for long periods of time. It could come from someplace upstream.”
The incident with the Cyclospora parasite by itself is not particularly alarming. It is a fairly common organism and is not particularly dangerous.
However, there has been a sharp increase in the number of food borne illnesses this year. In May, Unsafefoods.com reported that there had already been seven major outbreaks. The majority of these were salmonella related.
Following this, there was an outbreak of an extremely rare strain of salmonella called Salmonella I 4,,12:b in a Kratom supply that had been moved through Nevada. Following that outbreak was an incident with yet another strain of salmonella. This time the bacteria had come into contact with dried coconut products used in Go Smiles snack packages.
Another salmonella outbreak was connected to a supply of frozen coconut. This was followed by a crop of sprouts being infected with, again, salmonella. The final outbreak reported by Unsafefoods.com was caused by E. coli in a supply of Romaine lettuce. 172 people were affected by it.
A recent mysterious outbreak stems from a series of Chipotle restaurants in Ohio. Experts are still unsure what the pathogen is. Local health authorities have been contacted by more than 700 people, all of whom have visited the restaurant and exhibit similar symptoms. The common symptoms are nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fever.
But the Ohio outbreak remains a mystery as all of the stool samples submitted have shown no food borne bacteria that could have caused the reported symptoms.
Some of the most recent nationwide warnings have been to avoid Romaine lettuce.
In recent years, scientists have discovered that food borne illnesses can trigger long term health problems that can last for years. Kidney damage, high blood pressure, and even complete kidney failure striking patients as much as 15 to 20 years after the initial incident have been reported.
Dr. Robert Tauxe of the CDC said, “People assume once you’re over the initial illness, that’s it, you’re back to normal. But long-term consequences are a poorly documented, poorly studied area of food borne illness.”
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