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July 31, 2013
Make sure your employees don't get that nasty stomach bug!

People in more than a dozen states have gotten sick from a food-related parasite called Cyclospora. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still investigating the cause of the outbreak. But you can still take steps to keep this bug away from your place of business. Keep reading to learn more and consider sharing this important information with employees.

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About 90 percent of the more than 300 cases have been reported in Iowa, Texas, and Nebraska, and a number of people have been hospitalized with persistent diarrhea and loss of appetite. In the past, outbreaks have been associated with raspberries, lettuce, basil, and other foods. In Nebraska and Iowa, inspections have determined that a salad mix is the likely cause, but the CDC has yet to determine whether this is the case in other affected areas.

Though the bulk of the cases have occurred in the three states listed above, the infection has spread to other parts of the country, and at least 21 people have been hospitalized. According to the CDC, current totals of Cyclospora cases by state are as follows:

  • Iowa: 143 cases
  • Texas: 101 cases
  • Nebraska: 76 cases
  • Florida: 24 cases
  • Wisconsin: 7 cases
  • New York: 5 cases, 4 of which occurred in New York City
  • Illinois: 4 cases
  • Georgia: 3 cases
  • Kansas: 2 cases
  • Missouri: 2 cases
  • Arkansas: 1 case
  • Connecticut: 1 case
  • Minnesota: 1 case
  • New Jersey: 1 case
  • Ohio: 1 case

You guessed it—hand washing is the best preventive measure

The parasite is found in human fecal waste, so hand washing is the best way to prevent it from spreading.

According to the CDC, hand washing is easy to do and is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of many types of infections and illnesses in the workplace and elsewhere.

Remind your employees to wash their 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; and
  • After touching garbage.

Here’s the recommended way to wash:

  • Wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
  • Rub your hands together to make lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between fingers, and under nails.
  • Continue rubbing the hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • 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 the skin, you need to wash as soon as possible.

Also, avoid touching bathroom doorknobs or spray the knobs with disinfecting sprays or wipes, as people who do not wash their hands can contaminate them.

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