HOUSTON - Health officials are warning the public about an uptick in cyclospora cases in Texas. In the last month, 68 cases have been reported to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

We’ve confirmed about half of those cases are in our area.

The Houston Health Department has gotten 19 reports of the parasite since May.

A spokesperson with Harris County Public Health says they received 9 probable or confirmed cases between June 4 and July 5. There are three cases still pending investigation.

The Texas Department of State Health Services reports there have also been 3 cases in Fort Bend County, 2 in Galveston County, and 1 in Montgomery County.

Cyclosporiasis is acquired by eating food or drinking water that is contaminated with human feces.

Experts are still trying to identify the source in the Texas cases.

“We don’t know where it’s coming from so far. That’s the point of us doing an investigation. We go talk to people, find out where they ate, where they bought their food. That way the information can go statewide and we can track the source,” said Porfidio Villareal, Public Information Officer for the Houston Health Department.

Past outbreaks in the U.S. have been associated with imported fresh produce, including fresh cilantro, pre-packaged salad mix, raspberries, basil, snow peas and mesclun lettuce. Thorough washing of fresh produce is recommended, but may not eliminate the risk of transmission since Cyclospora can be difficult to wash off all types of produce.

Symptoms of cyclosporiasis usually begin two to 14 days after eating or drinking contaminated food or water. It causes severe diarrhea that can last weeks to months and may relapse.

Additional symptoms may include anorexia, fatigue, weight loss, abdominal cramps, bloating, increased gas, nausea, vomiting and low-grade fever.

Cyclosporiasis can occur at any time of the year, but most of the reported cases and outbreaks in the United States occur during spring and summer months, particularly during May through August.

“The best thing to do is go to places that you trust, grocery stores you trust or restaurants that you trust. That’s really the best thing you can do. And when you’re washing your vegetables, make sure you give them a real wash,” said Villareal.

The Texas Department of State Health Services is encouraging healthcare providers to test patients for Cyclospora if they have diarrheal illness lasting more than a few days or diarrhea accompanied by severe anorexia or fatigue.