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Three in Kansas City area now have parasite infection

Updated: 2013-08-04T03:24:49Z

By ALAN BAVLEY

The Kansas City Star

A second case of a parasite infection that can cause severe gastrointestinal symptoms has been reported on the Missouri side of the Kansas City area, health officials said Friday.

A third local case, linked to a national outbreak that has sickened more than 400 people in 16 states this summer, has been reported across the state line in Johnson County.

Most of the illnesses have occurred in Iowa, Texas and Nebraska.

The federal Food and Drug Administration said Friday that the illnesses in Iowa and Nebraska are linked to salad mix served at Olive Garden and Red Lobster restaurants in those states and supplied by a Mexican farm.

Kansas has identified two cases, in Johnson and Phillips counties, both linked to the larger outbreak.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it has not determined if the salad mix was the source of infections in other states, but Kansas officials have said both patients there are believed to have gotten sick from food eaten in Nebraska.

People can be infected by consuming food or water contaminated with the parasite, which is most commonly found in tropical and subtropical regions.

The FDA said its investigation has not implicated packaged salad sold in grocery stores.

Both Olive Garden and Red Lobster are owned by Orlando, Fla.-based Darden Restaurants. In a statement, the company questioned the FDA findings, saying it has “no reason to believe that anyone was exposed to cyclospora in any of our restaurants.”

“We have done extensive trace-backs on all our produce, including looking at analyses of the irrigation water used in our suppliers’ growing fields, and there are no issues or concerns with any of the products we use,” said Darden spokesman Mike Bernstein.

The FDA said it traced illnesses from the restaurants in Nebraska and Iowa to Taylor Farms de Mexico, a processor of food service salads based in Salinas, Calif. The company has a branch about 180 miles north of Mexico City in San Miguel de Allende.

In a statement on its website, Taylor Farms says the Mexican facility is “state of the art and has an exceptional food safety record.” The statement said the company is working with FDA investigators who are looking at the facility and the product is out of the food supply.

The typical shelf life for a salad mix is up to 14 days, and the most recent illness in Iowa or Nebraska was a month ago in Nebraska.

However, the CDC has learned of more recent illnesses elsewhere, the latest being July 23. As of late Friday, the latest Missouri case had not shown up in the federal tally.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said it is working with the CDC to determine whether its two Kansas City area cyclospora infections and an additional case in Taney County are linked to the national outbreak.

The first two Missouri cyclospora infections, one in Jackson County, the other in Taney County, were reported a week ago. The latest Missouri case was reported by a Kansas City area health care provider.

Cyclospora infects the small intestine and may cause diarrhea, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting and flu-like symptoms. It can be treated with a combination of antibiotics.

The Associated Press contributed to this story. To reach Alan Bavley, call 816-234-4858 or send email to abavley@kcstar.com.

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