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Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Cyclospora strikes again - the little bug that can move the bowels of a nation.

Food borne outbreaks tend to be more common in the summer months.  This one is catching a few lifting eyebrows, but since only 200 US cases confirmed perhaps just passing reference. Outbreak notification

Lets put a different spin on it. First, there are at least 8 Canadian cases between BC and Ontario that are also likely linked.  While there are vague allusions to various fresh products including berries, herbs and lettuce, there is no definitively identified food that is associated with the illnesses.  That there are recommendations to wash fresh produce is something that isn’t clearly established as being effective. 

Only a small number of organisms is sufficient to result in infection.  Up to 70% of children have asymptomatic infections.  Adult symptoms are common, start acutely, are quite discomforting  and can be protracted.  Deaths are rare.   Person to person transmission is very uncommon, almost all cases are associated with food consumption.  Washington DoH

Treatment is usually required, unlike most other causes of diarrheal infections or foodborne disease. 
Once again we have a developing situation, where the focus of attention is on fresh produce, the perceived healthy alternatives – not on the traditional food items like dairy, meat and poultry where the vast majority of our food safety resources are directed. 

The number of Cyclospora outbreaks just seems to be creeping upwards, but beyond case reports, concrete statistics don’t seem easy to come back.  Please post a link if you have access to a compendium of outbreaks. 

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