According to a public health notice issued Saturday, Aug. 8, 2015, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) is collaborating with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Health Canada to investigate 83 cases of Cyclospora infection in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec. A total of 83 cases have been reported in British Columbia (3), Alberta (1), Ontario (74), and Quebec (5). Two people have been hospitalized and are recovered or recovering. No deaths have been reported. These individuals became sick between May 9 and July 18, 2015. To date, no source has been identified, and the investigation is ongoing, the agency reported. Previous foodborne illness outbreaks of Cyclospora infection in Canada and the U.S. have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce, such as pre-packaged salad mix, basil, cilantro, berries, mesclun lettuce and snow peas, PHAC stated. To date, no multi-jurisdictional outbreaks have been linked to produce grown in Canada, the agency added. The current U.S. outbreak, according to the latest update from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), totaled 384 cases of Cyclospora infections in 26 states. Mexican cilantro has been identified as the suspected source. 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. In Canada, non-travel related illnesses due to Cyclospora occur more frequently in the spring and summer months. lllnesses among travelers can happen at any time of year. People living or traveling in tropical or subtropical regions of the world may be at increased risk for infection because the parasite is found in some of these regions, PHAC stated. People with weakened immune systems, young children and older adults are at increased risk for developing complications. Cyclosporiasis infection responds to antibiotic treatment and is not considered to be life-threatening in healthy people. Most people recover fully, though it may take several weeks to fully recover. 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
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- stomach cramps
- abdominal bloating
- increased gas
Cyclospora illness can last from a few days to several weeks if left untreated. Symptoms may seem to go away and then return one or more times. As with any disease-causing diarrhea, people infected with Cyclospora should drink plenty of liquids to replace lost body fluids and prevent dehydration. People who experience symptoms or suspect they have been infected with Cyclospora should contact their health care providers or local public health, the agency recommended. PHAC provided the following general food safety tips as important in reducing the risk of infection from foodborne illnesses:
- Wash fresh fruits and vegetables before eating them, clean counters and cutting boards and wash your hands regularly.
- Keep refrigerators clean and at a temperature below 4 degrees C (40 degrees F). Install a thermometer in your fridge to be sure.
- Keep raw food away from other food while shopping, storing, preparing and serving foods.
- Read labels and follow cooking and storage instructions for all food. When buying food, make sure to check the “best before” date and, if the product has expired, let the store know.
- Use warm soapy water to clean knives, cutting boards, utensils, your hands and any surfaces that have come in contact with food, especially meat and fish.
- Refrigerate or freeze perishable food within two hours of cooking.
- Freeze or consume leftovers within four days of cooking. Always reheat leftovers until steaming hot before eating.
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