Illinois health departments work to combat foodborne illness increase

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- The Illinois Department of Department Health has confirmed 243 cases of Cyclosporiasis - or Cyclospora - in the state.

Now they are working with the Winnebago County Health Department and others in the state to keep the problem from growing.

"Cyclospora is a microscopic parasite. You can't really see it," said University of Illinois College of Medicine Rockford's Famly Medicine Residency Program Director Joseph Ross, MD.

It may be small, but it is powerful - and now the Illinois Department of Public Health is trying to work with local health departments to investigate the growing number of cases in the state.

"The symptoms are sometimes a low-grade fever, some kind of body ache, you just don't feel good, then some kind of stomach ache, stomach cramp, and then diarrhea," said Ross.

Experts say these signs may be easy to play off as some other issue, but if we're feeling under the weather, it's better to be safe and report the issue.

"Reporting it comes here to the health department," said Winnebago County Health Department Director of the Center for Health Protection Todd Kisner.

Kisner says it's important to track what everyone who contracts the parasite has been and what they've eaten.

"We try to connect if myself is a case and Charlie Brown and Linus, you know, then we try to look for a common denominator," said Kisner.

The best way to make sure you don't get any foodborne illnesses is to scrub your vegetables or fruits, especially if you see any signs of dirt because that is where the Cyclospora comes from.

"If you're using any type of meat, preparing meats or chicken, you want to use a separate cutting board for the meats, as opposed to the salads and vegetable-type stuff," said Ross.

Being aware and careful about where our food comes from is what experts say will help us stop Cyclospora from spreading.

Of the 243 cases, 92 people reported eating salads from McDonald's.