The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment is currently investigating an outbreak of Cyclospora on the Western Slope. As of June 15, there have been 62 cases reported in Colorado since May 1, 2023. These cases have not resulted in any hospitalizations or deaths. Historically, Colorado has averaged 63 cases per year between 2017 and 2022. CDPHE is the lead agency on this investigation and is working closely with Ouray County Public Health to identify a possible source of the outbreak. CDPHE has communicated information about this outbreak to health care providers throughout the state. Health care providers must report all cases of cyclosporiasis to public health within four days.
At this time, public health officials have identified approximately 45 people who are likely associated with the outbreak who dined at the same restaurant, Tacos del GNAR, in Ridgway. People affected reported dining at Tacos del GNAR since May 1, 2023. Cyclospora outbreaks are typically the result of contaminated product — usually produce — in the supply chain rather than a result of food handling and/or cleaning practices at the restaurant. Tacos del GNAR is partnering with CDPHE in all aspects of the investigation. When informed of the outbreak, Tacos del GNAR disposed of and replaced all produce within the facility with different products.
Anyone who dined at Tacos del GNAR since May 1, 2023, and experienced or is still experiencing symptoms such as watery diarrhea should contact a health care provider as soon as possible to get tested for Cyclospora, which is typically treated with antibiotics. People who ate at the restaurant since May 1, 2023, whether they became ill or not, are asked to complete an online survey to help public health with the investigation into the cause of this outbreak.
Cyclospora is spread by people eating or drinking something — such as food or water — that was contaminated with the parasite. Cyclospora is generally not passed directly from one person to another.
The time between eating or drinking Cyclospora and becoming sick is usually about one week, but can be more than two weeks. Cyclospora infects the small intestine and usually causes watery diarrhea, with frequent, sometimes severe, bowel movements. Other common symptoms include loss of appetite, weight loss, stomach cramps/pain, bloating, increased gas, nausea, fatigue, vomiting, body aches, headache, fever, and other flu-like symptoms. Some people who are infected with Cyclospora do not have any symptoms.
CDPHE will provide additional updates if new information becomes available over the course of the investigation.
What is Cyclospora?
Cyclospora is a parasite composed of one cell, too small to be seen without a microscope. The organism was previously thought to be a blue-green alga or a large form of Cryptosporidium. Cyclospora cayetanensis is the only species of this organism found in humans.
Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness caused by the parasite Cyclospora cayetanensis, which is transmissible by ingestion of fecally contaminated food or water.Cyclosporiasis is most common in tropical and subtropical regions of the world. In the United States, foodborne outbreaks of cyclosporiasis have been linked to various types of imported fresh produce (e.g., basil, raspberries, and snow peas). Validated molecular typing tools, which could facilitate detection and investigation of outbreaks, are not yet available for C. cayetanensis.
Outbreaks of cyclosporiasis in humans have been reported mostly from North America, from the infection sources of contaminated fresh food products, such as soft fruits (raspberries), leafy vegetables (coriander, basil, and mixed salad), and herbs. Soil is another possible infection source, particularly in areas with poor environmental sanitation.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been conducting national surveillance for cyclosporiasis since it became a nationally notifiable disease in January 1999. As of 2015, cyclosporiasis was a reportable condition in 42 states, the District of Columbia, and New York City (NYC). Health departments voluntarily notify CDC of cases of cyclosporiasis through the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System and submit additional case information using the CDC cyclosporiasis case report form or the Cyclosporiasis National Hypothesis Generating Questionnaire (CNHGQ).
While cyclosporiasis cases are reported year-round in the United States, cyclosporiasis acquired in the United States (i.e., “domestically acquired,” or cases of cyclosporiasis that are not associated with travel to a country that is considered endemic for Cyclospora) is most common during the spring and summer months. The exact timing and duration of U.S. cyclosporiasis seasons can vary, but reports tend to increase starting in May. In 2020, multiple outbreaks of cyclosporiasis were identified and found to be linked to different produce items. As of September 23, 2020, the CDC documented 1,241 laboratory-confirmed cases of cyclosporiasis in people who had no history of international travel during the 14-day period before illness onset.
What are the typical symptoms of Cyclospora infection?
Cyclospora infects the small intestine (bowel) and usually causes watery diarrhea, bloating, increased gas, stomach cramps, and loss of appetite, nausea, low-grade fever, and fatigue. In some cases, vomiting, explosive diarrhea, muscle aches, and substantial weight loss can occur. Some people who are infected with Cyclospora do not have any symptoms. The time between becoming infected and becoming ill is usually about one week. If not treated, the illness may last from a few days up to six weeks. Symptoms also may recur one or more times (relapse). In addition, people who have previously been infected with Cyclospora can become infected again.
Where does Cyclospora come from?
The modes of transmission of C. cayetanensis are still not completely documented, although fecal–oral transmission is the major route. Direct person-to-person transmission is unlikely. Indirect transmission can occur if an infected person contaminates the environment, the oocysts sporulate under the right conditions, and then contaminated food and water are ingested. The role of soil in transmission has also been proposed. The relative importance of these various modes of transmission and sources of infection is not known.
The dissemination of infective Cyclospora oocysts via water, soil, and unprocessed foods (e.g., fruits and vegetables, including ready-to-eat salads) is enabled by their small size (8–10 μm), low specific gravity, and high infectivity. Such oocysts can survive for weeks to months in water and food, depending on the environmental temperature, and are resistant to the routine sanitization or chemical disinfection procedures used in irrigation systems, recreational waters, or drinking water treatment plants.
How is Cyclospora diagnosed?
Cyclosporiasis is usually diagnosed symptomatically in clinical settings, including the presence of watery diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and bloating. In untreated, immunocompetent people, the diarrhea can last from days to weeks to a month or more, and can wax and wane, with variable oocyst shedding. Oocysts can continue to be shed (intermittently or continuously) by non-symptomatic people, and symptoms can also persist in the absence of oocysts in feces. In a clinical context, conventional diagnosis usually involves microscopic examination of intestinal tissue biopsy sections, stool samples for the presence of developmental stages of Cyclospora, or advanced molecular testing for DNA. Improved specificity and sensitivity have been possible largely through the use of PCR, which enables the specific amplification of genetic loci from tiny amounts of genomic DNA of Cyclospora. Because of the intermittent nature of oocyst shedding and the low numbers of this stage in feces, it is recommended that multiple stool samples be collected at 2–3 day intervals over a period of more than a week, to increase the likelihood of identifying the disease microscopically.
What are the serious and long-term risks of Cyclospora infection?
Cyclospora has been associated with a variety of chronic complications such as malabsorption, reactive arthritis, and cholecystitis (inflammation of the gallbladder). Since Cyclospora infections tend to respond to the appropriate treatment, complications are more likely to occur in individuals who are not treated or not treated promptly. Extraintestinal infection also appears to occur more commonly in individuals with a compromised immune system.
Although human cyclosporiasis is usually not fatal in developed countries such as the United States, protracted diarrhea often leads to dehydration, particularly in infants who are at greatest risk of severe dehydration and death, especially if cyclosporiasis is complicated by infections with other pathogens (viral, bacterial, or parasitic—e.g., Cryptosporidium and Giardia), malnutrition, or malabsorption, particularly in underprivileged communities.
According to the CDC, the recommended treatment is a combination of two antibiotics, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, also known as Bactrim, Septra, or Cotrim. It is advisable for people who have diarrhea to also rest and drink plenty of fluids.
 Casillas, S. M., Hall, R. L., & Herwaldt, B. L. (2019). Cyclosporiasis Surveillance – United States, 2011-2015. Morbidity and mortality weekly report. Surveillance summaries (Washington, D.C. : 2002), 68(3), 1–16. https://doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.ss6803a1
 Giangaspero, A., & Gasser, R. B. (2019). Human cyclosporiasis. The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 19(7), e226–e236. https://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(18)30789-8
 Casillas, Ibid, Note 1 at Page 1.
 CDC. (2020, September 24). Cyclosporiasis Outbreak Investigations – United States, 2020. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/cyclosporiasis/outbreaks/2020/seasonal/index.html
 Cyclosporiasis – Disease. (2018, May 11). https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/cyclosporiasis/disease.html
 Almeria S, Cinar HN, Dubey JP. Cyclospora cayetanensis and Cyclosporiasis: An Update. Microorganisms. 2019; 7(9):317.
 Giangaspero, Ibid, Note 2 at Page 1.
 Giangaspero, Ibid, Note 2 at Page 3-4.
 CDC. (2020, October 21). CDC – Cyclosporiasis – Resources for Health Professionals. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/cyclosporiasis/health_professionals/index.html
 Giangaspero, Ibid, Note 2 at Page 2.
 CDC. (2020, September 17). CDC – Cyclosporiasis – General Information – Cyclosporiasis FAQs. https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/cyclosporiasis/gen_info/faqs.html
Cyclospora: Marler Clark, The Food Safety Law Firm, is the nation’s leading law firm representing victims of Cyclospora outbreaks. The Cyclospora Attorneys and Lawyers have represented victims of Cyclospora and other foodborne illness outbreaks and have recovered over $850 million for clients. Marler Clark is the only law firm in the nation with a practice focused exclusively on foodborne illness litigation. Our Cyclospora lawyers have litigation Cyclospora cases stemming from outbreaks traced to basil and lettuce products.
If you or a family member became ill with a Cyclospora infection after consuming food and you are interested in pursuing a legal claim, contact the Marler Clark Cyclospora attorneys for a free case evaluation.