Cryptosporidium Caused Foodborne Disease

An outbreak of cryptosporidiosis -- an illness characterized by diarrhea, fever, and chills -- after a banquet in Spokane, Washington, may have occurred because of improper food handling, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. The outbreak was the fourth known food-related outbreak of cryptosporidiosis in the US since 1993. Cryptosporidium, a parasitic organism that can be spread via fecal contamination of food and water, was behind a 1993 Milwaukee outbreak in which contaminated tap water sickened over 400,000 people and killed 100.

In all, 54 out of the 62 people who attended the Spokane banquet became ill 3 to 9 days later, a longer incubation time than other food-contaminating organisms, such as salmonella. Two of the 14 food handlers who were tested were positive for Cryptosporidium, and one of the workers was experiencing symptoms of infection at the time of the banquet.

This outbreak highlights several key issues for food workers. Uncooked produce should be thoroughly washed before being placed on kitchen work surfaces to prevent contamination of these surfaces. Food handlers should not work when they have a gastrointestinal illness, advise CDC experts. People infected with Cryptosporidium can shed infectious particles in feces for up to 60 days after diarrhea stops, although most people stop shedding such particles within 2 weeks. Therefore, food workers should be particularly meticulous about handwashing," according to the CDC. In 1993 and 1996, outbreaks were linked to Cryptosporidium in unpasteurized apple cider and a 1995 outbreak was linked to chicken salad that may have been contaminated by a food worker.

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report July 17, 1998;47:565-567.

COMMENT: This article has several interesting lessons to share. It is interesting that not all of the people who ate the food became sick. This proves that although infectious agents are important causes of illness there are other factors which contribute to the manifestation of their effects. My general experience has been if you are eating a low sugar diet and have probiotics like the excellent Flora Source on a regular basis you will be much more resistant to these illnesses. Certain herbs such as garlic and oregano are also beneficial in helping keep these organisms under control. I would also review newsletter #51 for information on how to keep your kitchen free from infectious agents so it will not spread these organisms.

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