Parasite found in McDonald's salads

More than 100 sick after eating McDonalds salads

ILLINOIS (KFVS) - McDonald's is stopping the sale of salads at 3,000 restaurants after people became sick from a parasite causing intestinal illness.

The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) has received confirmation of approximately 90 cases of cyclosporiasis, an intestinal illness caused by the microscopic Cyclospora parasite.

Cases have been reported in counties across Illinois with people becoming ill starting in mid-May.

The Chicago-based fast-food chain said Friday it's acting "out of an abundance of caution" until switching to another supplier.

At least one of the affected restaurants is in each of the following states: Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Kentucky, West Virginia and Missouri.

The initial investigation indicates a link to consumption of McDonald's salads produced for McDonald's restaurants.  Approximately one-fourth of Illinois cases reported eating salads from McDonald's in the days before they became ill.  The Iowa Department of Health has noted a similar increase in cases.

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"Although a link has been made to salads sold in McDonald's restaurants in some Illinois cases, public health officials continue to investigate other sources," said IDPH Director Nirav D. Shah, M.D., J.D.  "If you ate a salad from McDonald's since mid-May and developed diarrhea and fatigue, contact a health care provider about testing and treatment."

Sarah Patrick, the Jackson County Health Administrator says there have been no cases in Jackson County but she does have some warnings.

"Washing your hands, making sure you clean under your finger nails, if you are ill, not preparing food for other people, she said.  "It's very important because I don't want to get sick. and I certainly don't want nobody else to get sick because that's bad for business. I want people to have a good experience, enjoy their food, tell their friends and come back."

The fast food chain is fully cooperating with the state health departments, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Food and Drug Administration investigation. 
People can become infected by consuming food or water contaminated with feces (stool) that contains the parasite.  Cyclospora is not spread directly from one person to another.
 
Symptoms usually begin about a week after exposure, although some people who are infected may not have any.  Symptoms may include the following:

  • Frequent bouts of watery diarrhea (the most common symptom)
  • Loss of appetite and weight
  • Cramping, bloating, and/or increased gas
  • Nausea (vomiting is less common)
  • Fatigue
  • Low-grade fever
  • Cyclospora infection can be treated with specific antibiotics.  If not treated, the illness may last for a few days to a month or longer.

Previous cyclosporiasis cases have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce including raspberries, basil, snow peas, and lettuce. 
 
More information can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

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