Public Health Notice – Outbreak of Cyclospora appears to be over
October 6, 2016 - Final Update
This is the final update related to this investigation. The outbreak appears to be over and the investigation has been closed.
Why you should take note?
The Public Health Agency of Canada collaborated with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Health Canada to investigate locally-acquired Cyclospora infections in four provinces. Imported fresh produce products were items of interest in the investigation, but the source of the outbreak was not identified. Given there have not been any illnesses related to this outbreak since August 2016, the outbreak appears to be over and the investigation has been closed.
Cyclospora is a microscopic single-celled parasite that is passed in people's feces. If it comes in contact with food or water, it can infect the people who consume it. This causes an intestinal illness called cyclosporiasis.
Cyclospora is not common on food and is not in drinking water in Canada. The parasite is most common in some tropical and subtropical countries such as Peru, Cuba, India, Nepal, Mexico, Guatemala, Southeast Asia and Dominican Republic. In Canada, non-travel related illnesses due to Cyclospora occur more frequently in the spring and summer months. Illnesses among travellers can happen at any time of year.
In Canada, a total of 87 cases were reported in four provinces: British Columbia (2), Alberta (2), Ontario (75), and Quebec (8). Individuals became sick between May and mid-August 2016. Over half of the cases were female (52%), with an average age of 50 years. One case was hospitalized. The source of the outbreak was not identified. To date, no multi-jurisdictional outbreaks of Cyclospora have been linked to produce grown in Canada.
Previous foodborne illness outbreaks of Cyclospora in Canada and US have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce, such as pre-packaged salad mix, basil, cilantro, raspberries, blackberries, mesclun lettuce and snow and snap peas.
Who is most at risk?
People living or traveling in tropical or subtropical regions of the world who eat fresh produce or drink untreated water may be at increased risk for infection because the parasite is found in some of these regions.
Most people recover fully, however, it may take several weeks before an ill person's intestinal problems completely disappear.
What you should do to protect your health?
It can be hard to prevent cyclosporiasis. This is because washing produce does not always get rid of the Cyclospora parasite that causes the illness. You can reduce your risk by:
- cooking produce imported from countries where Cyclospora is found; and
- consuming fresh produce grown in countries where Cyclospora is not common, such as Canada, the United States, and European countries.
When travelling to a country where Cyclospora is found, you can reduce your risk by:
- avoiding food that has been washed in local drinking water;
- drinking water from a safe source; and
- eating cooked food or fruit that you can peel yourself.
People infected with Cyclospora can experience a wide range of symptoms. Some do not get sick at all, while others feel as though they have a bad case of stomach flu. Few people get seriously ill.
Most people develop the following symptoms within one week after being infected with Cyclospora:
- watery diarrhea
- abdominal bloating and gas
- fatigue (tiredness)
- stomach cramps
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- mild fever
When you eat or drink contaminated food or water, it may take 7 to 14 days for symptoms to appear. If left untreated, you may have the symptoms for a few days up to a few months. Most people have symptoms for 6 to 7 weeks.
Sometimes, symptoms may go away and then return.
If you become ill, drink plenty of water or fluids to prevent dehydration from diarrhea. If you have signs of illness and have reason to believe you have cyclosporiasis, call your health care provider.
What the Government of Canada is doing
The Government of Canada is committed to food safety. The Public Health Agency of Canada, in collaboration with its federal, provincial and territorial partners, will continue to monitor for and investigate any new cases of Cyclospora that may be related to this outbreak as part of its routine surveillance activities.
Public Health Agency of Canada
Call toll-free: 1-866-225-0709
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