Cyclosporiasis is a diarrheal illness caused by a microscopic parasite called Cyclospora cayetanensis. In the spring of 1996, a large outbreak occurred in the eastern United States due to contaminated raspberries imported from Guatemala. It became one of the diseases that must be reported to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene in January 1997. There were 18 cases of cyclosporiasis reported among New York City residents in 2008 (rate of 0.2 cases per 100,000 persons).
Anyone can get cyclosporiasis. In the past, Cyclospora infection was usually found in persons who lived or traveled in developing countries. More and more, cases are being recognized in countries such as the United States and Canada.
Cyclosporiasis can occur when a person ingests water or food that has been contaminated with the parasite. The infection can also be transmitted by a person putting something in his or her mouth that has been contaminated with infected stool (feces). Outbreaks in North America have been associated with various types of fresh produce. When passed in an infected person's stool, Cyclospora may require some time (days to weeks) in the environment before becoming infectious. It is therefore unlikely that cyclosporiasis is spread directly from one person to another.
Cyclospora infects the small intestine (bowel) and usually causes watery diarrhea, with frequent bowel movements. Other symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, bloating, increased gas, stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, tiredness, muscle aches, and low-grade fever. Symptoms may subside and then return. Untreated, the illness may last a few days to a month or even longer. Some persons infected with Cyclospora do not develop any symptoms.
The time between becoming infected and developing symptoms is usually about a week.
If you think you may be infected with Cyclospora, you should talk to you doctor. Identification of this parasite in stool requires special laboratory tests that are not routinely used. Therefore, your doctor should specifically request testing for Cyclospora. More than one stool sample collected on different days may be needed. Your doctor may also want to have your stool checked for other infectious organisms that can cause similar symptoms.
The current recommended treatment for infection with Cyclospora is a combination antibiotic called trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole. Infected persons with diarrhea should rest and drink plenty of fluids. They should seek their doctor's advice before taking medicine to slow their diarrhea.
Cyclospora infection can be prevented by avoiding water or food that may be contaminated with stool.
Avoid food that may be contaminated.
Wash your hands often.
Avoid water that may be contaminated.
Take extra care when traveling.
Last Updated December 2009