Report: Sonora Grill diners sickened by food-borne parasite

Sonora Grill is cooperating with health department officials on an investigation into a rash of cyclospora cases.

Sonora Grill is cooperating with health department officials on an investigation into a rash of cyclospora cases. Renee Jones Schneider, Star Tribune

 Did you eat at Sonora Grill in mid-May?

Say, during the weekend of the 18th through the 20th? 

And (sorry, but we're obliged to ask) did you later experience any of the following?

  • Watery diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

If so, the Minnesota Department of Health has a pretty good idea what happened to you. If you did eat there and didn't have any gastrointestinal trouble, health inspectors still want to hear from you as they attempt to figure out what went wrong.

At least 17 people who ate at the popular (and with good reason) Lake Street Mexican restaurant during that weekend contracted an infection called Cyclospora, the same food-borne parasite found in some vegetable trays for sale at Kwik Trip convenience stores in Minnesota and Wisconsin, according to a Friday announcement from the state department of health.

The two outbreaks are not related, and in the case of Sonora Grill, it's not yet known exactly what food items are to blame. Cyclospora is spread through the consumption of fresh produce; specifically, "fecally contaminated imported produce," according to Wikipedia.

From the sounds of it, once food's infected, preventing its spread is no simple task:  "Washing of imported produce, or routine chemical disinfection or sanitizing methods, are unlikely to kill Cyclospora," according to the MDH announcement.

Kwik Trip's sickened customers are known to have consumed Del Monte vegetable trays containing broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, and "dill dip." To date, 20 people have reported illnesses traced back to Kwik Trip.

Both Sonora Grill and Kwik Trip are cooperating with the department. Sonora Grill customers who dined there during the weekend in question are asked to call 651-201-4891. (Again, even if you did not get sick, your information could be useful.) 

"Besides these outbreak cases," MDH epidemiologist Trisha Robinson says, "there are other cases of cyclosporiasis that do not appear to be related to either of these outbreaks, which is not unexpected for this time of year. We typically see increases in Cyclospora infections from May through August."

Anyone enduring the above symptoms should get to a doctor posthaste, regardless of where they ate. As MDH's announcement says: "People typically become ill about a week after exposure, but this period can range from 2-14 days. Diarrhea can last several weeks or longer if not treated."