Causes of cyclosporiasis (Cyclospora)

Learn about the causes of cyclosporiasis, where it is found and how it is spread.

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What causes cyclosporiasis?

Cyclosporiasis is an illness of the intestines caused by a parasite called Cyclospora.

How is cyclosporiasis spread?

The most common way that Cyclospora is spread is by eating food or drinking water that contains the Cyclospora parasite.

Cyclospora is not common on food and is not in drinking water in Canada.

However, food can be a source of cyclosporiasis for Canadians when imported from countries where Cyclospora is common. Foods imported to Canada that have been linked to the Cyclospora parasite include:

  • basil
  • cilantro
  • raspberries
  • blackberries
  • mesclun lettuce
  • snow and snap peas
  • pre-packaged salad mix

Cyclosporiasis is unlikely to spread directly between people. This is because the parasite can only infect others once it leaves your body through feces. To be able to spread, the parasite needs to be outside the body for about 7 to 15 days.

Only humans and possibly primates can be affected by Cyclospora. Therefore cyclosporiasis does not spread between humans and animals.

If you have already had cyclosporiasis, you can get it after recovery if you are exposed to the parasite again.

Where is it found?

Cyclospora can be found in sewage and untreated water. It is found worldwide, but is most commonly found in tropical and subtropical areas, such as:

  • Peru
  • Cuba
  • India
  • Nepal
  • Mexico
  • Guatemala
  • Southeast Asia
  • Dominican Republic

How does food and water become contaminated?

The Cyclospora parasite gets in sources of water when feces from infected people enter the water supply. Food can then become contaminated when this water is used:

  • on crops
  • in food processing and packaging

Foods can also become contaminated from infected farm workers or food handlers. This is when proper sanitation techniques are not used, such as:

  • hand washing
  • gloves or other barrier
  • avoidance of cross-contamination

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