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Cyclosporiasis

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What is it?

Cyclosporiasis is a bowel infection. It is caused by a parasite called Cyclospora cayetanensis (SIGH-clo-SPORE-uh KYE-uh-tuh-NEN-sis). This parasite is so tiny it can only be seen by a microscope. The first known human cases of illness caused by this parasite were reported in 1979. Reporting of this illness became more frequent in the mid 1980s. In the last several years, outbreaks of cyclosporiasis have been reported in day care centres in both the United States and Canada.

How is cyclospora spread?

It is spread by ingesting food (e.g., produce) or water, or swimming in water that has been contaminated by infectious feces.

Cyclospora needs time (days or weeks) after being passed in a bowel movement to become infectious. Therefore, it is unlikely that Cyclospora is passed directly from one person to another.

Who is at risk for infection?

People of all ages are at risk for infection. In the past, Cyclospora infection was usually found in people who lived or traveled in developing counties. However, people can be infected worldwide.

What are the symptoms of infection?

The most common symptom is profuse, non-bloody, watery diarrhea with explosive episodes. Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal bloating or cramping, fatigue and weight loss. Fever also can occur. Not everyone with Cyclosporiasis has symptoms.

The time between becoming infected and becoming sick is usually about one week (range, one to 14 days).

If not treated, the illness may last from a few days to a month or longer. Symptoms may seem to go away and then return one or more times (relapse).

How is infection prevented?

  1. Avoid water or food that may be contaminated with stool. People who have previously been infected with cyclospora can become infected again.
  2. Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly. This will help to reduce contamination.
  3. Practice thorough hand washing.
  4. Avoid unpasteurized milk or milk products.
  5. When travelling, camping or hiking, or if a boil water advisory has been issued, bring the water to a rolling boil for five full minutes. This water can be used for drinking brushing teeth, making ice, washing fruits and washing dishes.
  6. Remove infected persons with symptoms from jobs that require handling food.
  7. Cyclosporiasis must be reported to the Medical Officer of Health as required by the Health Promotion and Protection Act.

For more information, please contact a member of Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit’s Infectious Disease Team.

Simcoe Office: 519.426.6170 / 905.318.6623
Caledonia Office: 905.318.5367

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