Cyclospora cayetanensis is a parasite that is so small it can only be seen under a microscope. When people eat food or drink water that’s contaminated with Cyclospora, they can get an intestinal illness called cyclosporiasis.
Cyclospora is generally transmitted when infected feces contaminate food or water. It’s unlikely to be transmitted directly from person to person because the Cyclospora parasite needs time (days to weeks) after being passed in a bowel movement to become infectious for another person.
Who Is at Risk?
People living or traveling in countries where cyclosporiasis is common, including certain tropical or subtropical regions of the world, may be at increased risk for infection. However, people living in other areas can become infected with Cyclospora by consuming food or water that has been contaminated with the parasite.
What Are the Symptoms?
The time between becoming infected and becoming sick is usually about one week. Cyclospora infects the small intestine (bowel) and usually causes watery diarrhea, with frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements. Other common symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps/pain, bloating, increased gas, nausea, and fatigue. People may also experience vomiting, body aches, headache, low-grade fever, and other flu-like symptoms. Some people who are infected with Cyclospora do not have any symptoms. 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). It’s common to feel very tired.
What Foods Have Been Linked to U.S. Outbreaks of Cyclosporiasis?
Past cyclosporiasis outbreaks in the U.S. have been linked to raspberries, basil, cilantro, snow peas and mesclun lettuce. Although it’s unknown exactly how food and water become infected with Cyclospora, people should be aware that rinsing or washing food is not likely to remove it.
What Do Restaurants and Retailers Need to Do?
Based on current information available Cyclospora may be resistant to routine chemical disinfection methods such as those using chlorine. However, restaurants and retailers should still follow basic food safety practices:
- Retailers, restaurants, and other food service operators should always practice safe food handling and preparation measures. It is recommended that they wash and sanitize utensils, and surfaces before and after handling food. Wash and sanitize display cases and refrigerators where potentially contaminated products were stored.
- Wash and sanitize cutting boards, surfaces, and utensils used to prepare, serve, or store potentially contaminated products.
- Wash hands with warm water and soap following the cleaning and sanitation process.
- Regular frequent cleaning and sanitizing of food contact surfaces and utensils used in food preparation may help to minimize the likelihood of cross-contamination.
What do Consumers Need to Do?
Consumers should follow these steps:
- Wash the inside walls and shelves of the refrigerator, cutting boards and countertops; then sanitize them with a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water; dry with a clean cloth or paper towel that has not been previously used.
- Wash hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food.
- Wipe up spills in the refrigerator immediately and clean the refrigerator regularly.
- Always wash hands with hot, soapy water following the cleaning and sanitization process.
- Persons who think they might have become ill from eating potentially contaminated foods should consult their health care provider.
Who Should Be Contacted?
Contact your healthcare provider if you have diarrhea that lasts for more than three days.
The FDA encourages consumers with questions about food safety to Submit An Inquiry, or to visit www.fda.gov/fcic for additional information.