08/10/2015 09:47 EDT | Updated 08/08/2016 05:59 EDT

Outbreak Of Intestinal Bug Cyclospora In Canada, Linked To Produce

OTTAWA — Public health officials are warning about an outbreak of the intestinal illness Cyclospora, with 83 cases are being investigated across Canada.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued a statement that says two people have been hospitalized from the parasite but no deaths have been reported.

The cases became known between May 9 and July 18 and are mainly in Ontario, but there are also some infections in B.C., Alberta and Quebec.

The agency says the source is unknown but past outbreaks of Cyclospora have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce, such as pre-packaged salad mix, basil, cilantro, berries, mesclun lettuce and snow peas.

Cyclospora is generally low-risk and can be cured with antibiotics, but people with weakened immune systems, children and the elderly are at increased risk of developing complications.

Symptoms can include stomach cramps, diarrhea and loss of appetite.

People are being asked to take extra care to clean and properly store fruits and vegetables.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, this is what you can do to reduce infection risk:

  • Wash fresh fruits and vegetables before eating them, clean counters and cutting boards and wash your hands regularly.
  • Keep refrigerators clean and at a temperature below 4 °C (40 °F). Install a thermometer in your fridge to be sure.
  • Keep raw food away from other food while shopping, storing, preparing and serving foods.
  • Read labels and follow cooking and storage instructions for all food. When buying food, make sure to check the "best before" date, and if the product has expired, let the store know.
  • Use warm soapy water to clean knives, cutting boards, utensils, your hands and any surfaces that have come in contact with food, especially meat and fish.
  • Refrigerate or freeze perishable food within two hours of cooking.
  • Freeze or consume leftovers within four days of cooking. Always reheat leftovers until steaming hot before eating.

Symptoms of Cyclospora include the following (generally within one week after being infected):

  • Watery diarrhea
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • stomach cramps
  • abdominal bloating
  • increased gas
  • nausea
  • fatigue

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