08/12/2016 11:15 EDT | Updated 08/12/2016 11:59 EDT

51 Cases Of Cyclospora Reported In Four Provinces, Linked To Produce

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Close up of lettuce

The Canadian government is urging grocery-goers to check the source of their produce after a recent outbreak of cyclospora was reported in four provinces.

According to the CBC, 51 cases of the microscopic single-celled parasite have been documented in Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta between the months of May and July.

The intestinal illness, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC), is passed through human feces and can infect individuals if it comes in contact with food or water.

The parasite is commonly found in tropical and subtropical countries including Peru, Cuba, India, Nepal, Mexico, Guatemala, Southeast Asia and Dominican Republic, according to PHAC.

CBC notes that since washing the produce doesn't eliminate the parasite, the government recommends cooking produce from the countries where the parasite can be found.

In the past, cyclospora outbreaks have been linked to fresh produce, pre-made salad mixes, berries and fresh herbs like basil and cilantro.

salad bag

The Public Health Agency of Canada adds symptoms of the parasite include watery diarrhea, weight loss, stomach cramps, bloating, nausea, gas, fatigue and a loss of appetite.

PHAC recommends washing fresh fruit and vegetables before eating them, cleaning counters and cutting boards and washing hands regularly to reduce the risk of infection from foodborne illnesses.

washing cutting board

When you're shopping, keep raw food away from other types of food, check the "best before" date and when cooking, use soapy water to clean kitchen tools and cutting boards that have been in contact with food.

And lastly, always refrigerate perishable food/dishes within two hours of cooking and consume leftover meals within four days.

Around the same time last year, 92 cases of cyclospora were investigated across Canada. The Public Health Agency of Canada reported two people were hospitalized as a result.

People travelling in tropical or subtropical regions, older adults, young children and people with weakened immune systems are at the most risk, the agency adds, but most people recover fully after several weeks of taking antibiotics.


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