Rise in travel-related Cryptosporidium cases prompts warning

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Irish health officials have issued a warning after recording a rise in cryptosporidium infections in people returning from abroad.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) in Ireland said increased levels of cryptosporidiosis have been reported from areas of Spain, including Salou in Catalonia, in the past month. A parasite causes the infection, and symptoms include diarrhea and vomiting.

The agency advised people to take extra hygiene precautions when traveling overseas.

There has been a widespread increase in cryptosporidiosis in Europe in August and September that has been attributed to extreme weather in Europe, primarily Mediterranean countries, over the summer.

More than 50 people have fallen sick, with 37 lab-confirmed cases. So far this year, 656 infections have been reported in Ireland compared to 510 in the same period in 2022.

Tackling the increase
HSE said hands should be washed with soap and clean water before eating and drinking; before and after preparing food, particularly raw meat, after using the toilet or changing diapers; after visiting food markets; after hand contact with items in public areas and after touching live animals.

Cryptosporidium can be spread in a chlorinated pool because it is resistant to chlorine. It can also be caught by touching infected animals.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has also been investigating higher-than-average levels of cryptosporidiosis in England in recent weeks. The reason for the increase is unknown, but many cases had traveled abroad.  

Laboratories in England have informed UKHSA of around 700 Cryptosporidium hominis cases and hundreds more Cryptosporidium spp—reports over the past few weeks.

The most common symptom is watery diarrhea. Some people may also experience dehydration, weight loss, stomach cramps, fever, nausea and vomiting. Others may not have symptoms at all. Symptoms usually last between 1 to 2 weeks. While it is a mild disease in healthy people, it can be worse in small children and elderly people and can be very serious for immunocompromised people. Specific tests are required because the symptoms can mimic other diseases.

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