Lansing — State officials are investigating reports of multiple cases of a stomach illness caused by a microscopic parasite, they said Friday.

Cases of the illness, called cyclosporiasis, have been found in southwest Michigan, officials said. People can be infected by consuming contaminated food or water. Outbreaks in the United States have been linked to contaminated fresh produce.

Officials said a preliminary investigation suggests the cases are connected to food prepared at or distributed by Taste restaurant in South Haven.

They also said there is no indication the illnesses are related to poor food handling or preparation at this establishment. Taste restaurant is fully cooperating with the investigation, according to the state. 

"Cyclospora contamination often occurs prior to the food arriving at food distribution centers and restaurants,” Tim Slawinski, food and dairy division director for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. “This type of contamination is not easily removed by standard produce rinsing.”

Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy director for health at the state's Department of Health and Human Services, said the agency is working with local health departments on the investigation.

"We are asking that anyone who has symptoms like watery diarrhea and stomach cramps and recently ate at the restaurant contact their doctor because this illness can be effectively treated with antibiotics," Khaldun said.

Symptoms of the illness include diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps, bloating, nausea and fatigue. They can manifest 1-2 weeks after ingestion of contaminated food or water.

Cyclosporiasis is usually not fatal, but if untreated, the symptoms can last for weeks and return one or more times.

Twitter: @CharlesERamirez

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