Berry, Berry, Quite Contrary...Cyclospora Outbreaks

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Cyclospora Facts

Outbreaks of illness in the United States causing infectious watery diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting recently have been found to be caused by a parasite called Cyclospora. Food-borne outbreaks of the illness have been reported in the U.S. since the mid-1990s, although this is a relatively uncommon cause of gastroenteritis. About one third have been associated with international travel, one third were domestically acquired, and another third were from unknown sources.

The importation of food from Central and South America, especially fruits and vegetables, has led to multiple outbreaks, including ones associated with raspberries, snow peas and snap peas from Guatemala. Outbreaks of Cyclospora infections (cyclosporiasis) in 2013 and 2014 have been linked to cilantro and salad mixes, affecting more than 600 people, mostly in Nebraska, Texas and Iowa.

The Cyclospora parasite is transmitted to people who contact objects contaminated with infected stool (mainly water and foods like fruits and vegetables that may have been washed or sprayed with contaminated water). In 1997, reports of outbreaks of Cyclospora infection were preliminarily associated with the consumption of fresh fruits, such as strawberries and raspberries, but the current outbreaks have not been associated with specific foods.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works with the federal, state, and local health departments to determine the extent and causes of the recent outbreaks of Cyclospora. They pointed out that although it is prudent to thoroughly wash produce that will be eaten raw, this practice may not eliminate the risk of transmission of Cyclospora. Further, they recommend that health-care professionals consider Cyclospora infection in people with prolonged (longer than about a week) diarrheal illness and specifically request laboratory testing for this parasite.

The CDC has a site (see the CDC reference below) that is updated with information that answers the following questions about cyclosporiasis:

What is Cyclospora?

Cyclospora is a parasite that is composed of one cell. It is too small to be seen without a microscope. Its full name is Cyclospora cayetanensisa, and it has a life cycle that involves both sexual and asexual reproduction. The part of the cycle in man is the ingestion of sporulated oocysts that pass through the GI tract where the sporocysts break open in the small intestine and release oocysts that infect the GI cells. The organisms then reproduce and release unsporulated oocysts into the stool contents that are excreted into the environment where they develop into sporulated oocysts that can infect humans.

The first known human cases of Cyclospora infection were diagnosed in 1977. Cases began being reported more often in the mid-1980s. More frequent reports may be due to better techniques that are now being used to detect the parasite in specimens of stool (bowel movements).

Cyclospora Outbreak - Berry, Berry, Quite Contrary Resources

Doctor written main article on Cyclospora Infection (Cyclosporiasis)

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/28/2016

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