Avoiding cyclospora: Wash your hands, wash your produce | Environment
The word cyclospora was introduced to many people's vocabulary this week. If you haven't yet heard about this parasite, let me introduce you.
The FDA says,
"Cyclospora is spread by people ingesting something - such as food or water - that was contaminated with the parasite. Cyclospora needs time (days to weeks) after being passed in a bowel movement to become infectious for another person. Therefore, it is unlikely that Cyclospora is passed directly from one person to another."
At the time of this wrting, Texas and several other states are experiencing an outbreak of cyclospora; as of today, Texas has 101 reported cases of the bug, including two in Smith County. After it incubates, it causes intense diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps and pain, bloating, nausea and fatigue.
The parasite is found in human fecal waste, so, as you can imagine, thorough hand washing is the number one way to keep it at bay. No shortcuts!
Here's what the Centers for Disease Control says about hand washing:
When should you, in general, wash your hands?
- Before, during, and after preparing food
- Before eating food
- Before and after caring for someone who is sick
- Before and after treating a cut or wound
- After using the toilet
- After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
- After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
- After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
- After touching garbage
What is the right way to wash your hands?
- Wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
- Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the "Happy Birthday" song from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry.
If you can't get to soap and water, use hand sanitizer. However, if there is debris of any kind on your skin, you need to wash as soon as possible.
Also, avoid touching bathroom doorknobs, or spray with Lysol-type sprays or wipes.. People who do not wash their hands can contaminate them.
Next, you need to wash your raw produce.
The Food and Drug Administration recommends washing all fresh fruits and vegetables, including fresh herbs and fruit, even if you plan to peel it.The FDA also recommends drying all types of fresh produce with a paper towel to wipe away any residue that might still be clinging to the fruit or vegetable after rinsing.
This might be an extra step that seems annoying, but honestly, spending thirty seconds to dry off your food is a lot easier than spending weeks with diarrhea, nausea and cramping.
Taking these simple steps to fight the cyclospora parasite will spare you and your family a lot of misery. Wash your hands, wash your produce!
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