Make Our Food Safe

"Rare Stomach Illness Difficult to Diagnose"

The Associated Press | Mary Clare Jalonick and David Pitt

"Donna Heller thought she had cancer, but multiple visits to the doctor after a month of debilitating nausea and diarrhea didn’t yield any answers. Convinced that she was dying, she met with her lawyer to get her will in order.

Then she saw a television report about an outbreak of cyclospora possibly linked to bagged salad mix. The stomach illness matched all her symptoms and is easily treatable with antibiotics. She told her doctor that she suspected that could be the cause, and tests showed she was right.

“It went so long and nobody was able to give me answers,” said Heller, a 54-year-old teacher in Crowley, Tex. “It didn’t seem like anybody wanted to take you serious because there are so many stomach problems that resemble each other.”

A mysterious outbreak of the parasitic illness usually found abroad is growing, with more than 400 confirmed cases in 16 states. Food and Drug Administration officials said Friday they had discovered the source of some of the illnesses, but not all of them. The agency said that the illnesses from Iowa and Nebraska are linked to salad mix from a Mexican farm that was served at Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants. Those make up about half of the cases.

The rest of the illnesses — many of them in Texas — are still a mystery, state and federal officials say."

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