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Cyclosporiasis




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What is Cyclosporiasis?
Cyclospora cayetanensis (SIGH-clo-SPORE-uh KYE-uh-tuh-NEN-sis) is a parasite composed of one cell, too small to be seen without a microscope. The first known human cases of Cyclospora infection (Cyclosporiasis) were reported in 1979. Cases began being reported more often in the mid-1980s.

How is Cyclospora spread?
Cyclospora is transmitted by a person putting something in his/her mouth that was contaminated with infected stool (feces) from a person infected with Cyclospora. Cyclospora needs time (days to weeks) in the environment to become infectious for another person. Therefore, direct transmission from one person to another is very unlikely. Most cases of cyclosporiasis in the US have been linked to imported fresh produce such as raspberries, basil, lettuce, and snow peas. The produce was probably contaminated during cultivation, harvest or preparation for shipment.

Who is at risk for infection?
People of all ages are at risk for infection. Although travelers to tropical or developing countries may be at increased risk from exposure to contaminated water or food, infection can also be acquired in the United States.  The risk may vary with season; infection may be most common in spring and summer. Persons who have previously been infected with Cyclospora can become infected again. 

What are the symptoms of infection?
Cyclospora infects the small intestine (bowel) and usually causes watery diarrhea, with frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements. Other symptoms can include loss of appetite, substantial loss of weight, bloating, increased gas, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, muscle aches, low-grade fever, and fatigue. Some people who are infected with Cyclospora do not have any symptoms.

How soon after infection will symptoms begin?
The time between becoming infected and becoming sick is usually about 1 week.

How long will symptoms last?
If not treated, the illness may last from a few days to a month or longer. Symptoms may seem to go away and then return one or more times (relapse).

What should I do if I think I may be infected?
See your health care provider.

How is Cyclospora infection diagnosed?
Identification of this parasite in stool requires special laboratory tests that are not routinely done. Therefore, your health care provider should specifically request testing for Cyclospora. Because Cyclospora can be difficult to diagnose, you may be asked to submit several stool specimens over several days. Your health care provider may have your stool checked for other organisms that can cause similar symptoms.

How is infection treated?
People who have diarrhea should rest and drink plenty of fluids. An antibiotic is sometimes prescribed. Options for treatment should be discussed with your healthcare provider.

How can cyclosporiasis be prevented?
Avoid eating raw or undercooked foods or drinking untreated water that could be contaminated with feces. Baking or cooking fruits and vegetables will eliminate the risk of infection. Freezing fruits and vegetables may reduce but may not completely eliminate the risk of infection. As a general food safety measure, always wash fresh produce, even if it is to be peeled before eating.

How can cyclosporiasis be prevented?
Avoid eating raw or undercooked foods or drinking untreated water that could be contaminated with feces. Baking or cooking fruits and vegetables will eliminate the risk of infection. Freezing fruits and vegetables may reduce but may not completely eliminate the risk of infection. As a general food safety measure, always wash fresh produce, even if it is to be peeled before eating.

How can I obtain additional information on cyclosporiasis?
Additional information for health care providers and the public is available at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website (http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dpd/parasites/cyclospora/default.htm).


Last Updated: 09-28-2011

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