The Texas Department of State Health Services has confirmed that there are now 140 cases of cyclospora in Texas as of Thursday afternoon. This number marks an increase of six since yesterday's count.
Henderson and Kaufman Counties each reported a case of cyclospora. Previously Smith County had reported two cases and Hunt County, one.
Cyclospora is an intestinal illness caused by a one-cell parasite invisible to the naked eye. It takes around two weeks to incubate then causes intense diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps and pain, bloating, nausea and fatigue.
"It's typically a lower intestinal symptom like diarrhea and it can go on for a very long time, for weeks," says Dr. Ed Dominguez, an infectious disease specialist in Dallas, TX.
North East Texas Health officials say the illness is believed to be foodborne. People get sick by ingesting water or food that has been contaminated with feces passed by a person who is already infected. They say to avoid getting sick people should thoroughly wash their fruits and vegetables.
"Don't eat them raw, straight out of a bag, or off the shelf, or even from the farmers market," Hopkins says.
NET Health is working to track down how the people in East Texas got the parasite.
"We look at their lifestyle as far as where they shop, what kinds of foods they eat, how they prepare it, and what restaurants do they frequent," says Hopkins.
They will then take that information to the State Health Department to decide if all of the recent Cyclospora cases are somehow related.
People who think they have been infected should see their doctor immediately. Untreated symptoms can last from a few days to a month and may go away for a while before returning.