More than 70 people have fallen sick in the United Kingdom with Cyclospora infections after visiting Mexico.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said it has identified an increase of Cyclospora cayetanensis in travelers returning from Mexico. The microscopic parasite is transmitted through contaminated food or drinks.

Between May 12 and Aug. 14, 74 cases were reported in England, Wales, and Scotland. Slightly more than half of patients are female and overall patients have a median age of 44. 

Travel information is known for 52 cases, of which 48 reported going to Mexico. Of these, 42 stayed in different hotels in the Riviera Maya and Cancún regions, and most reported having a variety of food and drink within their resort as part of an all-inclusive holiday package.

Seasonal outbreaks of cyclosporiasis in people returning from Mexico have been reported since 2015, except in 2020 and 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, although case numbers have varied with 79 in 2015, 359 in 2016, 82 in 2017, 61 in 2018, 67 in 2019, and 36 in 2022.

“Travelers to Mexico are strongly advised to maintain good food and water hygiene at all times even if staying in high-end all-inclusive resorts. If possible, they should choose freshly prepared food that is thoroughly cooked and served piping hot. Certain foods should be avoided such as fresh uncooked berries and herbs, unpeeled fruit and salad items as these can be difficult to clean,” said the UKHSA.

UKHSA is investigating the clusters of illnesses with the UK trade association for travel agents (ABTA) and Mexican public health authorities.

Wider problem
At the end of July, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported there are 1,063 patients identified as part of multiple outbreaks from April 2023. Sick people range in age from 2 to 96 and live in 34 states and New York City. A total of 79 people have been admitted to hospital but no one has died.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) has recorded 260 illnesses with 230 in Ontario as of August. Patients range in age from 1 to 97 years old. Six people were hospitalized but no one died.

The British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) said 43 cases had been reported to the agency in 2023 and at least nine of these were locally acquired, as they did not travel outside of Canada and the United States.

About Cyclospora
Anyone who has developed symptoms of Cyclospora infection, and has reason to believe they have been exposed to the parasite, should seek medical attention. Specific tests are required and antibiotics are used to fight the parasite.

Cyclospora infection can cause severe abdominal pain, watery diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, body aches, and fatigue. Symptoms can develop between two and 14 days after exposure. Though symptoms can be severe enough to send people to the hospital, it’s rare for people to die from Cyclospora infections. 

Cyclospora is a type of protozoa, which is a tiny, single-celled organism. It is transmitted when people somehow ingest contaminated feces, typically through contaminated food or water. It can be spread only through human waste, unlike E. coli and Salmonella, which can also be spread from animal fecal matter. 

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