The Iowa Department of Public Health is investigating a Cyclospora outbreak that appears to be connected to salads from a fast food restaurant.

State Epidemiologist Patricia Quinlisk says about 15 people in Iowa have come down with the Cyclospora infection in the last several weeks. “Basically it gives people pretty bad diarrhea that lasts quite a long time. It can also cause fatigue and a loss of appetite. It’s not a fun disease,” Quinlisk says. Doctor Quinlisk says they’ve worked with the Illinois Health Department and have been able to find a common link for the disease.

“These 15 have all eaten salads at McDonalds. So, we’ve been working with McDonald’s and some of the other states that have seen case to try and determine what exactly is going on. But meanwhile, we felt we needed to let the Iowa public know that this is a problem,” Quinlisk says. She says you have a watery diarrhea that lasts longer than a normal diarrhea would.

Doctor Quinlisk says you may need to take action if you had one of the salads. “We’re reminding anybody who ate any of the McDonald’s salads between the middle of June and today to go ahead and contact their health provider and get tested…. so if they have this that they can get properly treated,” she explains.

Quinlisk says it’s important to identify the disease and take action. “It is treatable with antibiotics,” Quinlisk says, “but the antibiotic that is used is not a typical antibiotic. And that’s why again it is important to go into your health care provider so you can make sure you get on the appropriate antibiotic.” Quinlisk says Cyclospora is the same problem seen recently with vegetable trays.

She says it appears to be a problem that starts long before the products are sold. “The product — and it’s often a green leafy vegetable — gets contaminated in the field,” according to Quinlisk. “There’s basically nothing that the restaurant can do. It can’t be washed off, there’s nothing that you can see.” She says it is not something that McDonald’s is responsible for as they didn’t do anything wrong and they don’t know the vegetables are a problem until people get sick.

Doctor Quinlisk says she expects more cases to be identified as people come forward and get tested.