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BLOOMINGTON — A foodborne illness that has sickened people in several Midwestern states has caused intestinal symptoms in at least 266 people in Illinois, including more than 20 in McLean County.

Cyclosporiasis, an intestinal illness caused by the microscopic Cyclospora parasite, has sickened at least 23 people in McLean County and one of them  needed hospitalization, Lisa Slater, communications specialist at the McLean County Health Department, said Monday.

According to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), 110 of the 266 Illinoisans who have become ill since mid-May reported eating salads at McDonald's restaurants in the days before becoming ill.

McDonald's said in a statement a week ago that it removed its lettuce blends from 3,000 restaurants, primarily in the Midwest, and replaced the lettuce with blends from a different supplier.

At least three people have been sickened in Macon County, said Carol Carlton, Macon County Health Department clinical nursing services director.

"At this point, they are not related to McDonald's," Carlton said. "We don't know the source." One of the Macon County residents had recently traveled out of the country. 

Woodford County has had one confirmed case, but that person was not hospitalized, said Andrea Ingwerson, public information officer with the Woodford County Health Department.

"The health and safety of our customers and the people who work in McDonald's restaurants is always our top priority," McDonald's said in its statement. "McDonald's is committed to the highest standards of food safety and quality and we continue to cooperate and support regulatory and public health officials in their investigations."

But many of those sickened did not eat at McDonald's and IDPH said "not all sources of illness have been identified."

"The Illinois Department of Public Health is leading the investigation in Illinois to identify all potential causes of cyclosporiasis and we are assisting them as needed," Slater said. "Our communicable disease staff is collecting food and travel histories from any individuals with confirmed cases in our county."

"We join IDPH in encouraging people to contact their health care provider if they believe they may have been exposed to a foodborne illness and have symptoms," Slater said.

Symptoms, which begin a week or two after exposure, include diarrhea; loss of appetite and weight; cramping, bloating and gas; nausea; fatigue and low-grade fever.

According to IDPH, the infection may be treated with antibiotics. Untreated, the illness may last for a few days to a month.

People become infected by consuming food or water contaminated with feces that contains the parasite.

Dr. Nirav Shah said in a prepared statement that the IDPH investigation continues to determine the source of the illnesses.

Representatives of Advocate Health Care and OSF HealthCare also are monitoring the situation.

Contact Paul Swiech at (309) 820-3275. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_swiech

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Health Reporter

Health reporter for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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