Northern Virginia health districts are investigating an increase in cyclosporiasis, a foodborne intestinal illness.

The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) announced on Tuesday that there has been an uptick in the number of reported cyclosporiasis cases since mid-June 2019. Thus far in 2019, there have been 15 cases of cyclosporiasis reported in Northern Virginia, up from eight at this time last year. 

Additionally, more than 40 people from two large businesses in the region have reported gastrointestinal illness and are suspected of having cyclosporiasis. Officials did not identify the businesses.

The illness, which typically occurs in tropical or subtropical areas, is caused by consuming food or water contaminated with feces or stool. Officials are still searching for a food or water source of the outbreak. Past foodborne outbreaks of cyclosporiasis have been connected to various kinds of imported fresh produce, such as raspberries, basil, arugula, snow peas, mesclun lettuce, and cilantro.

According to the VDH, common symptoms of cyclosporiasis include diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal cramping or bloating, nausea and prolonged fatigue. In some cases, vomiting, low-grade fever and other flu-like symptoms may be experienced. If untreated, the illness can last anywhere from a few days to over a month, and while the illness may seem to go away, it can come back again, the VDH says.

Northern Virginia health districts include Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties, as well as the cities of Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park.

Anyone experiencing symptoms of cyclosporiasis should visit their healthcare provider, and to prevent the spread of cyclosporiasis, individuals are advised to wash fruit and vegetables thoroughly, and also wash their hands with soap and warm water before and after handling the produce.

In a press release, the VDH said they are “working with local, state and federal health officials to investigate the increase in Cyclospora illnesses and will share information as it becomes available.”