The B.C. Centre for Disease Control is reporting 43 confirmed cases of a gastrointestinal illness so far this year, while also reminding the public to wash produce thoroughly and be aware when travelling.
The BCCDC says most of the of the 43 Cyclospora cases reported as of July 31 are related to travel, with only nine being locally acquired. The BCCDC said Friday (Aug. 4) that it, along with public health authorities, are investigating to determine the possible sources of infection for locally acquired cases.
Cyclospora is a gastrointestinal illness with common symptoms of diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting and occasionally fever. Young children, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are more likely to have severe illness.
It is a parasite most commonly found in tropical and subtropical areas, including Peru, Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, Dominican Republic, India, Nepal and elsewhere in Southeast Asia.
The BCCDC said that each spring and summer, Canada sees an increase in non-travel related Cyclospora illnesses, with infections known to occur when eating contaminated, imported raw produce, especially leafy greens, fresh herbs and berries. Locally grown produce is not known to carry the parasite.
Foods that have previously been linked to Cyclospora infections include: broccoli, lettuce, cabbage, celery, peas, snap peas, cucumbers, carrots, green onions, basil, cilantro, cherries, raspberries and blackberries.
The BCCDC is reminding people to reduce the risk of Cyclospora and other gastrointestinal infections by washing hands thoroughly before handling food, washing fruits and vegetables as thoroughly as possible before eating them, cooking produce when possible and not drinking untreated surface water from streams, rivers, lakes, ponds or shallow wells.
When travelling to an area with a higher risk of gastrointestinal illness, such as a developing country or destinations where water safety might be a concern: avoid fruits and vegetables that cannot be peeled or cooked and drink bottled water from a reputable supplier or boil water for at least one minute if at an altitude under 2,000 metres and for at least two minutes if at 2,000 metres or higher.
The previous highest case count was in 2017 during an outbreak when 41 cases were reported by this time, the BCCDC stated in an information bulletin Friday (Aug. 4).