We tend to take food safety for granted in many aspects of our daily lives. Thanks to public health laws and regulations governing food preparation and labeling, for example, when a bag of salad reads “triple washed and ready to eat”, that has to be true. Eating prepackaged salad greens should never give someone an intestinal parasite.
But recently, that’s exactly what has happened around the country. Foodborne outbreaks of a parasite called Cyclospora have made thousands of people sick, some severely. Most, if not all, of those outbreaks have occurred because of fecal contamination of food items either at the growing site or with contaminated wash water.
If you or someone you love has suffered food poisoning caused by Cyclospora, you may have the right to claim significant financial compensation. There’s a strong chance a party responsible for handling the contaminated food you ate will have liability for your losses. Contact a knowledgeable food poisoning attorney today to learn more.
What Is Cyclospora Food Poisoning?
Cyclospora cayetanensis (or simply Cyclospora) is an intestinal parasite, a single-cell microscopic worm that causes an illness known as cyclosporiasis. This disease affects the digestive system when contaminated food or water-carrying Cyclospora parasites enter the human body and begin to thrive in the gut.
Cyclospora is transmitted when another person ingests fecal matter from food or water that an infected person comes contacts. It is most common in developing countries with poor sanitation and in areas with tropical climates. Cyclosporiasis symptoms can emerge days to weeks after ingestion of the parasite. The illness typically passes after several weeks, but for some people it becomes a longer-lasting chronic condition.
Places You Could Contract Cyclospora
As an intestinal parasite, Cyclospora needs a host for part of its lifecycle. But it also needs to live outside of the body for a period, and that’s when it can be transmitted via contaminated food or water. Cooking food and boiling water generally kills parasites and makes food and water safe for consumption. But humans can still come in contact with Cyclospora by using contaminated eating utensils, bowls, drinking cups, or plates.
The most common way to ingest Cyclospora is by eating uncooked fruits and vegetables, or by coming into contact with untreated water.
You might encounter the parasite at, for example:
- Food trucks
- Grocery stores
- Fresh produce stands
- Untreated water bodies (lakes, streams, rivers, canals)
- Restrooms or portable toilets
These are just a few examples. Cyclospora can exist in a wide range of environments, but it is not always in a lifestage that can cause infection. You cannot rule out having contracted it simply because you did not visit one of the locations listed above.
How does Cyclospora spread?
Cyclospora lives and reproduces in the gut of a host, typically human, but also spends part of its life cycle in an environmental phase outside the host’s body. Transmission from host to host occurs via ingestion of food or water contaminated with fecal material containing the parasite. Many people infected with Cyclospora carry the parasite without developing cyclosporiasis, and unwittingly transmit the parasite.
In the United States, it is common to find Cyclospora parasite on fresh produce, such as:
- Lettuce (Romaine and mesclun)
- Snow peas
Cyclospora is invisible to the naked eye and is difficult to remove once it contaminates a food item.
It is less common for Cyclospora to be transmitted via contaminated water in the United States, but it can happen in areas affected by flooding or failed water treatment infrastructure.
Practicing proper hygiene is the safest way to prevent the spread of Cyclospora, typically by keeping sewage away from food growing and handling areas.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and other public health authorities recommend:
- Maintaining clean, sanitized restroom, food storage, and food preparation areas;
- Washing your hands with soap and water after using the restroom and before preparing any food;
- Always using clean, potable water for drinking, cooking, cleaning, and bathing;
- Rinsing raw fruit and vegetables thoroughly with clean potable water before eating them uncooked;
- Cooking any potentially contaminated foods thoroughly before eating;
- Boiling potentially contaminated water before using.
Following these standards will drastically reduce the likelihood of ingesting or transmitting Cyclospora. Most Cyclospora outbreaks in the United States tend to occur when someone food growers or processors fail to prevent contamination of food items.
Food Service and Agriculture as Vectors for Transmission of Cyclospora
In the United States, people working in food service and agriculture tend to pose the highest risk of transmitting Cyclospora to others. Poor personal hygiene, unsanitary food storage and preparation areas, and inadequate enforcement of food safety standards often contribute to the spread of the parasite. These failures also typically constitute violations of food safety laws and regulations that can make food and agriculture businesses liable for Cyclospora food poisonings.
People who pick crops often lack adequate bathroom facilities. Sometimes, they defecate in the fields where they work, which can lead to Cyclospora finding its way onto the produce they harvest. If untreated human waste can also foul groundwater, which also becomes a source of potential contamination.
Farms in the United States have a legal obligation to provide safe and sanitary facilities for workers, and many do. But lots of vegetables we eat are grown abroad, where food cultivation and handling practices are less rigorous and underenforced. During a recent major outbreak of Cyclospora food poisoning in the U.S., for example, contamination was linked to imported produce.
Food Service Workers
Cyclospora contamination can also occur when food service workers or their employers fail to follow safe food handling and preparation practices. Fault for these outbreaks often falls on employers and supervisors who cut corners by neglecting to provide adequate supplies, training, or facilities for employees, and to enforce hygiene and safety standards.
Food service businesses that put their bottom line in front of the safety of their workers and customers in this way risk having liability to the victims of any resulting Cyclospora food poisoning.
Symptoms of Cyclosporiasis
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cyclosporiasis affects the small intestine and causes infected people to experience frequent and explosive bowel movements. Diarrhea or loose stools are the most common symptom of the illness.
Other symptoms include:
- Abdominal pain
- Weight loss/loss of appetite
- Vomiting and nausea
- Body aches and fatigue
If you think you might have a Cyclospora infection, seek treatment from your health care provider immediately.
Complications from Cyclospora
Cyclospora can exacerbate chronic health conditions like Crohn’s disease, diverticulitis, IBS, and other intestinal disorders. As a parasite, Cyclospora survives by taking nutritional resources away from its host. It multiplies more rapidly in hosts with a weakened immune system than in hosts with a healthy digestive system.
If you already have chronic health conditions, introducing a parasite can lead to nutritional deficiencies such as anemia, severe diarrhea, and death. Unless the infected person receives treatment for the disease, the parasite might remain in the host’s body, and recurrences of cyclosporiasis might occur. The host person also runs the risk of transmitting the parasite to others.
Diagnosis and Treatment
A trained medical professional can diagnose cyclosporiasis. Typically, diagnosis starts with lab testing samples of the food suspected of contamination. Patients may also provide stool samples for similar purposes. Numerous other intestinal parasites can cause nearly identical symptoms and other problems, so testing in a lab is necessary to identify the specific parasite for optimal treatment.
After identifying Cyclospora as the culprit parasite, doctors can prescribe powerful antibiotics for treatment, and may also recommend hydration and rest. Sulfa drugs fight Cyclospora parasites most effectively. However, many people have allergies and sensitivities to these drugs, which might be problematic. Treating symptoms such as diarrhea, dehydration, pain, and discomfort offer sustainable management of the illness.
Damages Resulting From Cyclospora Food Poisoning
In the United States, Cyclospora food poisoning outbreaks almost always result from negligent food handling, storage, or preparation practices. Agri-businesses and food service companies that strictly enforce food safety protocols in their operations rarely — if ever—deserve the blame for transmitting Cyclospora to consumers. It’s the ones who do not follow those rules and regulations who end up causing outbreaks and illnesses, and who should pay for the harm they cause to innocent victims.
People sickened by Cyclospora food poisoning may face a difficult and expensive road to recovery. By hiring an experienced food poisoning injury lawyer, however, they can often secure significant financial compensation for their troubles.
Every food poisoning case differs, but victims typically have the right to claim damages for their:
- Medical expenses in treating cyclosporiasis and any related health complications
- Other costs borne by victims in connection with recovering from or living with a cyclospora-related health problem
- Lost earnings and job benefits when an infection keeps them out of work
- Lost future income if their condition prevents them from returning to work
- Physical pain and discomfort caused by the illness or treatment for it
- Emotional suffering resulting from the infection
- Daily inconvenience and diminished quality of life
In the rare, but possible, event that a case of cyclosporiasis (or its complications) results in death, the victim’s surviving spouse or close family members may also have the right to claim damages for their loss in a wrongful death lawsuit. Cases of cyclospora food poisoning may also justify a court in awarding punitive damages, which serve to punish extreme or intentional misconduct that results in harm to a victim.
How a Food Poisoning Lawyer Can Help
Obtaining compensation for a Cyclospora food poisoning case isn’t automatic. At-fault businesses and their insurance companies often deny liability and fight hard to avoid the financial consequences of sickening numerous consumers. Securing fair payment for the harm caused by a Cyclospora infection typically requires hiring a skilled attorney to handle your claim.
Lawyers for food poisoning victims can serve multiple functions, but their principal goals are to get justice and maximum compensation for their clients.
In pursuit of a favorable outcome in a food poisoning case, an experienced food poisoning lawyer can:
- Meet for free with victims to discuss their rights
- Investigate the source of a Cyclospora contamination and its probable method of transmission
- Evaluate the nature and extent of the harm a food poisoning victim has suffered, to determine the appropriate amount of damages to claim
- Analyze insurance policies that may cover the victim’s damages
- Serve as the public representative of affected victims in dealing with official investigators and the media
- Prepare, file, and pursue lawsuits and insurance claims on behalf of a Cyclospora food poisoning victim or class of victims
- Negotiate settlements with at-fault business and their insurers, to secure fair compensation for clients whenever possible
- Appear in court to advocate for clients, including by presenting a case proving liability for the food poisoning to a judge and jury
- Collect and distribute the money owed to sickened victims by those responsible for the outbreak or their insurers
Most food poisoning lawyers will do this work on a contingent fee basis. That means they will receive a fee only if they succeed in securing compensation for their clients.
Contact a Cyclospora Food Poisoning Lawyer Today
Contracting a Cyclospora parasite isn’t something anyone in the United States should have to worry about. Transmission is largely preventable, but only if food handlers, processors, and preparers follow appropriate safety standards.
If you come down with Cyclospora food poisoning, do not wait to seek the advice of an experienced attorney. You, and other victims like you, may have the right to claim significant financial compensation. But you may also have only limited time to take action to lodge your claim and hold the parties at-fault accountable.
A skilled personal injury lawyer can review your situation and explain your options. Contact a food poisoning lawyer in your area today for your free case consultation.