With 43 cases of Cyclospora infections so far this year, the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) is reminding people to take precautions to prevent gastrointestinal illness by washing fruits and vegetables thoroughly, cooking produce when possible, and being aware of risks when travelling.
Cyclospora causes gastrointestinal illness with common symptoms of diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and occasionally fever. Young children, older adults, and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have a severe illness.
In British Columbia (B.C.), most cases of Cyclospora are related to travel. Cyclospora is a parasite most commonly found in tropical and subtropical areas, including Peru, Cuba, India, Nepal, Mexico, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, and Southeast Asia.
Each spring and summer, Canada sees an increase in non-travel related Cyclospora illnesses. Cyclospora infection can occur due to eating contaminated, imported raw produce, especially leafy greens, fresh herbs and berries. Locally-grown produce is not known to carry Cyclospora.
As of July 31, a total of 43 cases have been reported to BCCDC and at least nine of these cases have been locally-acquired, i.e. did not travel outside of Canada and the United States. The previous highest case count was in 2017 during an outbreak when 41 cases had been reported to BCCDC by this time of year. BCCDC and public health authorities are investigating all locally-acquired cases to determine the possible source(s) of infection.
BCCDC advises people to take precautions when consuming imported foods that have been previously linked with Cyclospora infection.
These foods include:
- snap peas
- green onions
To reduce the risk of Cyclospora and other gastrointestinal infections:
- Wash your hands thoroughly before handling food.
- Wash fruits and vegetables as thoroughly as possible before eating them.
- Cook fruits and vegetables when possible.
- Do not drink untreated surface water from streams, rivers, lakes, ponds or shallow wells.
When travelling to an area at higher risk of gastrointestinal illness (e.g. a developing country or destinations where water safety might be a concern):
- Avoid fruits and vegetables that cannot be peeled or cooked.
- Drink bottled water from a reputable supplier, or boil water for at least one minute if at an altitude under 2,000 metres and for at least two minutes if at 2,000 metres or higher.
If you are experiencing watery diarrhea or severe and ongoing symptoms, please see your health care provider. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration from diarrhea.
The BC Centre for Disease Control, a part of the Provincial Health Services Authority, provides public health leadership through surveillance, detection, treatment, prevention and consultation services. The Centre provides diagnostic and treatment services for people with diseases of public health importance, and analytical and policy support to all levels of government and health authorities. The BCCDC also provides health promotion and prevention services to reduce the burden of chronic disease, preventable injury and environmental health risks. For more, visit www.bccdc.ca or follow us on Twitter @CDCofBC. The Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) provides specialized health care services and programs to communities across British Columbia, the territories of many distinct First Nations. We are grateful to all the First Nations who have cared for and nurtured this land for all time, including the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh Úxwumixw (Squamish), and səlil̓w̓ətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) First Nations on whose unceded and ancestral territory our head office is located. We work in partnership with other B.C. health authorities and the provincial government to deliver province-wide solutions that improve the health of British Columbians. For more information, visit www.phsa.ca or follow us @PHSAofBC.
Provincial Health Services Authority
PHSA Media line: 778.867.7472