Why you should take note
The Public Health Agency of Canada is collaborating with provincial public health partners, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, and Health Canada to investigate 83 Canadian cases of Cyclospora infections in Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, and Quebec. The source of this outbreak is not yet known, and the Agency and its partners continue to investigate.
The risk to Canadians is low, but people with weakened immune systems, young children and older adults are at increased risk for developing complications if they get sick. In Canada and the US, past foodborne outbreaks of Cyclospora have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce.
Cyclospora is a microscopic single-celled parasite that is passed in people’s feces. If it comes in contact with food or water, it can infect the people who consume it. This causes an intestinal illness called cyclosporiasis.
Cyclospora is most common in certain tropical and subtropical countries and regions.
In Canada, non-travel related illnesses due to Cyclospora occur more frequently in the spring and summer months. lllnesses among travellers can happen at any time of year.
In Canada, a total of 83 cases have been reported in British Columbia (3), Alberta (1), Ontario (74), and Quebec (5). Two cases have been hospitalized, and are recovered or recovering. No deaths have been reported. Individuals became sick between May 9 and July 18, 2015. To date, no source has been identified. The investigation is ongoing.
The majority of cases of cyclosporiasis in this outbreak were ill in late June and early July, with the last case reported illness onset being July 18.
Previous foodborne illness outbreaks of Cyclospora, in Canada and US have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce, such as pre-packaged salad mix, basil, cilantro, berries, mesclun lettuce and snow peas.
To date, no multi-jurisdictional outbreaks have been linked to produce grown in Canada.
Who is most at risk?
People living or traveling in tropical or subtropical regions of the world may be at increased risk for infection because the parasite is found in some of these regions.
People with weakened immune systems, young children and older adults are at increased risk for developing complications. Cyclosporiasis infection responds to antibiotic treatment and is not considered to be life-threatening in healthy people.
Most people recover fully, though it may take several weeks to fully recover.
What you should do to protect your health
Although the source of the outbreak has not been identified, past outbreaks have been associated with imported fresh produce, including pre-packaged salad mix, basil, cilantro, berries, mesclun lettuce and snow peas.
The following general food safety tips are important in reducing the risk of infection from foodborne illnesses:
- Wash fresh fruits and vegetables before eating them, clean counters and cutting boards and wash your hands regularly.
- Keep refrigerators clean and at a temperature below 4 °C (40 °F). Install a thermometer in your fridge to be sure.
- Keep raw food away from other food while shopping, storing, preparing and serving foods.
- Read labels and follow cooking and storage instructions for all food. When buying food, make sure to check the “best before” date, and if the product has expired, let the store know.
- Use warm soapy water to clean knives, cutting boards, utensils, your hands and any surfaces that have come in contact with food, especially meat and fish.
- Refrigerate or freeze perishable food within two hours of cooking.
- Freeze or consume leftovers within four days of cooking. Always reheat leftovers until steaming hot before eating.
People infected with Cyclospora can experience a wide range of symptoms. Some do not get sick at all, while others feel as though they have a bad case of stomach flu. Few people get seriously ill.
Most people develop the following symptoms within one week after being infected with Cyclospora:
- Watery diarrhea
- loss of appetite
- weight loss
- stomach cramps
- abdominal bloating
- increased gas
Cyclospora illness can last from a few days to several weeks, if left untreated. Symptoms may seem to go away and then return one or more times.
As with any disease causing diarrhea, people infected with Cyclospora should drink plenty of liquids to replace lost body fluids and prevent dehydration.
People who experience symptoms or suspect they have been infected with Cyclospora, should contact their health care providers or local public health.
What the Government of Canada is doing
The Government of Canada is committed to food safety. The Public Health Agency of Canada is leading the human health investigation of this outbreak and is in regular contact with its federal and provincial partners to monitor and take collaborative steps to address the outbreak. Health Canada provides food-related health risk assessments to determine if the presence of a certain substance or microorganism poses a health risk to consumers. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) conducts food safety investigations into the possible food source of an outbreak. The Government of Canada will continue to update Canadians as new information related to this investigation becomes available.