For the third year in a row, the United Kingdom is reporting an increase in the parasitic infection, cyclosporiasis since May, according to a European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) report Friday.
Since the beginning of the year, the UK has seen 58 cases, with at least more than half linked to overseas travel.
Like in previous years, a large proportion of cases are identified in travelers returning from Mexico, particularly from the Riviera Maya and Cancun regions.
Infections amongst these travelers are considered mostly foodborne and do not appear to be associated with contaminated water consumption or hygiene failures.
Cyclospora cayetanensis is a single celled coccidian parasite. Cyclosporiasis occurs in many countries, but it seems to be most common in tropical and subtropical regions.
The parasite causes watery diarrhea, nausea, anorexia, abdominal cramps and weight loss. Fever is a rare symptom.
People get infected with Cyclospora through foodborne or waterborne means. Swimming in contaminated water is also a way someone can get infected.
Cyclospora has been implicated in numerous outbreaks with contaminated fruits and vegetables being the common culprits (raspberries, basil and lettuce all washed with contaminated water), especially those imported from developing nations.
All fruits and vegetables should be thoroughly washed before eating though this does not guarantee safety. Cyclospora is resistant to chlorination.
Treatment is usually successful after a course of the antibiotic Septra. Patients with HIV or otherwise immunocompromised usually require higher dosages for a longer period of time. Untreated infections can last from a few days to over a month.
UK authorities provide the following additional advice to travellers to decrease the risk of Cyclospora infection when travelling to endemic countries:
• Follow good food and water hygiene advice at all times on holiday, even if staying in high-end, all inclusive resorts;
• Where possible, avoid buffets and choose freshly prepared, thoroughly cooked food that is served piping hot;
• Avoid fresh uncooked berries, unpeeled fruit and any leafy salad items since these are difficult to clean; • choose bottled water, or water that has been boiled or filtered with a filter designed for purifying drinking water. Avoid having ice cubes in your drinks and do not drink tap water or use it to clean your teeth;
• Consume tea and coffee made with boiling water and served steaming hot.
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