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What is it?

Cyclospora is a parasite that causes an illness in the intestines called cyclosporiasis.

How does it spread?

Cyclospora are passed through food and water contaminated by human feces (poop). People get infected when they eat or drink food or water that has come in contact with the parasite, or swimming in contaminated water. Illness with this parasite most often happens in those who travel to places where it is more common. There have been outbreaks in North America from imported fresh vegetables and fruit. It does not usually pass from person to person.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Cyclosporiasis can have different effects to different people. Symptoms usually begin from 2 days to 2 weeks after a person has been exposed. Most people infected will have (some or all):

  • watery diarrhea,
  • stomach cramps,
  • bloating,
  • increased gas,
  • nausea,
  • vomiting,
  • being very tired,
  • loss of appetite, and
  • weight loss.

How is it treated?

If you are sick with diarrhea, see your health care provider and avoid handling or preparing food for others. Your health care provider will request you to submit one or more stool samples for testing.  Your health care provider will also check for other reasons you might be having these symptoms. Cyclosporiasis is treated with antibiotics, rest and drinking plenty of fluids.  Some people, such as young children, older adults and those with weakened immune systems may be more severely sick or for a longer period of time.

How can it be prevented?

Food that is contaminated with cyclospora will not look or smell bad.  To prevent cyclospora follow these guidelines.

When travelling

  • In a country where Cyclospora is native, drink water only from a safe source. Sealed bottled water is a good option. When this is not available, water should be treated (purified or boiled). Do not trust tap water.
  • When camping or hiking boil water for at least one minutes, or drink only bottled water.
  • Use bottled water for brushing your teeth as well.
  • Be careful of ice cubes, as they may also carry the parasite.
  • Be aware of the danger of food washed in local water. Eat only cooked food, and only fruit that can be peeled or sliced yourself.

At home or abroad

  • After using the bathroom, always wash your hands well with soap for 20 seconds.
  • Washing your hands before handling food.
  • After preparing raw foods, always wash your hands.
  • Wash counters, cutting boards, knives and utensils used.
  • Wash vegetables and fruits thoroughly with clean running water.
  • Use a brush to scrub produce with firm surfaces, like potatoes and carrots (even if you peel them).
  • Scrub rough fruit like oranges and cantaloupes, so the inside is not contaminated when the fruit is peeled or cut.

However, washing produce will not always eliminate cyclospora, since the parasites can be difficult to remove.

Health Care Providers

Suspected cases and laboratory confirmed cases are reportable to the Health Unit immediately by telephone.

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