A one-celled parasite, Cyclospora cayetanensis, causes cyclospora infection. You get it by drinking water or eating food that's been contaminated by an infected person.

No one knows exactly how cyclospora is transmitted. A person infected with cyclospora passes the parasite in stool. However, unlike some other foodborne parasites, cyclospora doesn't become infectious until days or weeks after it's passed in a bowel movement. So it's unlikely that you can get the infection directly from an infected person, such as a restaurant worker who doesn't wash his or her hands adequately after using the toilet.

Before 1996, sporadic cases of cyclospora infection turned up only in people who traveled in developing countries and in those with HIV or another condition causing immune-system compromise. However, since 1995, lettuce, fresh basil and imported raspberries have been implicated in cyclospora outbreaks in the United States and Canada.

Sep. 24, 2011

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