BOSTON (WHDH) - Health officials are urging Bay State residents to practice safe food handling practices following an increase in reported Cyclospora infections.

There have been more than 100 reports of Cyclospora infection cases since May, many of which have occurred in and around the Boston area, according to the Massachusetts Department of Public Health.

Cyclospora is a foodborne illness that causes gastrointestinal symptoms, mainly diarrhea.

In the previous three years, officials say the average number of Cyclospora infections has typically been between 18 and 33 and cases.

Individual cases are usually associated with travel to warmer countries where the parasite is more common but officials say only a small number of the recent cases in Massachusetts have been tied to international travel.

Outbreaks involving restaurants have also been reported, however, no particular food item has been linked to the cases of Cyclospora at this time.

“Individuals usually become symptomatic approximately one week after eating contaminated food,” said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel. “Symptoms typically include watery diarrhea, loss of appetite, abdominal cramping, nausea, and prolonged fatigue. Immunocompromised people may have more prolonged symptoms. Many infections will resolve on their own, but people with symptoms should seek medical care as the infection is best treated with an antibiotic prescribed by a healthcare provider. “

Other states have also reported increases in the number of cyclosporiasis cases. The cause of the outbreak is not yet known.

To best prevent all foodborne illnesses, consumers and retailers should always follow safe fruit and vegetable handling recommendations:

 Wash: Wash hands with soap and warm water before and after handling or preparing fruits and vegetables. Wash cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with soap and hot water between the preparation of raw meat, poultry, and seafood products and the preparation of fruits and vegetables that will not be cooked.

 Prepare: Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting, or cooking. Scrub firm fruits and vegetables, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush. Cutaway any damaged or bruised areas on fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating. Cooking produce will eliminate the risk of Cyclospora and other foodborne infections.

 Store: Refrigerate cut, peeled, or cooked fruits and vegetables as soon as possible, or within two hours. Store fruits and vegetables away from raw meat, poultry, and seafood.

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