Cyclosporiasis is a diarrhoeal disease due to the microscopic parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis.
Infection occurs by ingestion of food, water or soil that has been contaminated by these parasites. The parasites are highly resistant to heat and disinfectants (including standard water chlorination).
- Raw fruit and vegetables imported from or eaten in countries where the parasite is common are associated with infection: raspberries, blackberries, lettuce, mange tout and salad herbs are most commonly implicated
Infection can occur worldwide but is particularly common in both Central and South America and Asia. In the UK cases have been associated with travel to Mexico.
Symptoms usually start 1 – 7 days after the parasite is consumed. Infection causes watery diarrhoea that can last for days to weeks, and recur. Tiredness, loss of appetite, nausea, tummy cramps, mild fever and weight loss may also occur.
Infection can be more serious in those with a compromised immune system.
The infection can be diagnosed on a sample of diarrhoea. The infection usually gets better by itself, but relapses can occur. It can be treated with a course of antibiotics.
The chance of infection can be reduced by following Food and Water Precautions during travel, including:
- consuming only boiled or bottled water.
- avoiding raw fruit and vegetables that cannot be peeled prior to consumption, especially berries, herbs and salad leaves; washing food in drinking water is unlikely to remove the parasite from the surface of the fruit/vegetables.
It should be noted that Cyclospora is not killed by most water purification tablets, portable filtration systems or disinfectants (including standard water chlorination).
An advice sheet for travellers can be accessed via Cyclospora Advice for Travellers
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