What is Cyclospora?
1. Cyclospora cayetanensis is a single-celled parasite that is too small to be seen with naked eyes. This parasite causes an intestinal infection called cyclosporiasis;
2. Cyclospora mainly lives in the human small intestine and it passes out its oocysts in the stool of infected person. Under favourable conditions, immature oocysts sporulate and become infective;
3. Cyclospora is mainly transmitted in water or food and tends to be more common in humid and hot summer. Tropical or subtropical regions have a higher incidence of this infection. It is unlikely that Cyclospora is transmitted from person to person;
4. Cooking at high temperature or heating can kill Cyclospora, whereas cleaning processes are not sufficient to eliminate Cyclospora.
What are the symptoms after infection?
1. The time between becoming infected and becoming sick is approximately 7 days;
2. Patients mainly present with symptoms of diarrhoea. Other common symptoms include stomach pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, body aches, vomiting and fever, etc. Some of the patients may develop complications such as dehydration and colitis, etc.;
3. Infected infants or people with low immunity may dehydrate due to diarrhoea, which can be fatal in severe cases.
How to prevent infection by Cyclospora?
Cyclospora is highly resistant to external environment. Therefore, it is important to pay close attention to the hygiene of water and food in order to avoid contamination from the environment.
Safety tips to the trade:
1. Purchase food ingredients from reputable suppliers;
2. During food import, request the suppliers to provide relevant health certificates;
3. Food handlers should wash hands thoroughly before handling food. Do not handle food when suffering from symptoms of illness such as diarrhoea and vomiting, etc.;
4. Retain relevant documents such as import records and invoices for source tracing by competent authorities when necessary.
Safety tips to the public:
1. Buy food from reputable shops;
2. Maintain good personal hygiene practices. Wash hands thoroughly before handling food;
3. Vulnerable groups (such as infants and young children, pregnant women, elderly and people with lower immunity) should avoid consumption of raw ready-to-eat food such as salads;
4. Remain vigilant about food and personal hygiene when travelling abroad as consumption of contaminated water or food may cause illness.
Last but not least, the trade and the public should make constant efforts to wash food ingredients thoroughly, handle and store food carefully. For example, vegetables and fruits should be thoroughly washed or peeled, and vegetables should be cooked thoroughly before consumption.