An outbreak of the intestinal illness Cyclospora is being warned against by public health officials, and some 83 cases are being investigated across Canada. A statement has been issued by the Public Health Agency of Canada, announcing that two people have been hospitalized due to the parasite, but no deaths have been reported.
The source, the agency says, is unknown. Past outbreaks of Cyclospora have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce, for example pre-packaged salad mix, cilantro, berries, basil, mesclun lettuce and snow peas.
In the U.S., recently federal agencies announced that over 380 people in 26 U.S. states have been diagnosed with a stomach illness associated with Mexican cilantro contaminated by human waste.
The Canadian cases became known between May 9 and July 18. They are mainly in Ontario, but some infections have also been reported in the provinces of B.C., Alberta and Quebec.
Cyclospora cayetanensis is a protozoan that causes disease in humans. It has been linked in the United States to fecally contaminated imported raspberries and was virtually unknown before about 1990, but has been on the rise since.
The health risk associated with the disease is usually confined to adult foreigners visiting regions where the species is endemic and acquiring the infection, which is why C. cayetanensis has been labeled as causing “traveler’s diarrhea.”
Symptoms include “watery diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal bloating and cramping, increased flatulence, nausea, fatigue, and low-grade fever“, though this can be augmented in more severe cases by vomiting, substantial weight loss, excessive diarrhea, and muscle aches.
The public is being asked to take extra care to clean and properly store fruits and vegetables.