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Government warns of cyclospora outbreak affecting fruits and vegetables from US
Published on August 24, 2013 Email To Friend    Print Version

As a result of warnings issued by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the ministry of environment, home affairs and agriculture has alerted residents and visitors to the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) to the possibility of infection with the parasite cyclospora from the consumption of fruits and vegetables originating from the United States.

Cyclospora are single-celled parasites that mostly live in tropical environments which, when ingested, can result in gastrointestinal symptoms resulting in diarrhea, fever, flu-like symptoms, weight loss, bloating, fatigue, vomiting and loss of appetite. Hospitalisations may occur from dehydration associated with prolonged diarrhea.

As of August 15, 2013, the CDC was notified that at least 576 persons in 19 states were affected, with 29 of those cases in Florida. Unconfirmed reports suggest that the organism originated from produce imported into the US from Taylor Farms in Mexico.

TCIG’s Plant Health Services Division (PHSD) warns that this outbreak has the potential to impact the Turks and Caicos Islands due to its close proximity to Florida and the huge trade in fruits and vegetables from the USA to the TCI.

Importers of fresh produce are therefore reminded to exercise due diligence by ensuring that fruits, vegetables and plant products for import into these islands are safe. All such products originating from the US or imported into the US and re-exported MUST be approved and duly inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspectors prior to export to the TCI.

Consumers of fresh produce are being reminded to carefully and thoroughly wash fruits and vegetables with potable water and dry before consumption. Cyclospora is said to be difficult to remove and the CDC reports that the organism may be resistant to chemicals such as bleach and chemicals.

Farmers who import fruits, vegetables with roots, seedlings and other materials for propagation MUST also ensure that they are obtained from areas not known to be contaminated with cyclospora or any other disease causing organism that can impact our people, plants, animals or environment.

To mitigate the possible impact of the outbreak on the TCI, the Department of Agriculture has introduced strict a sanitary and phytosanitary system. This requires that that every importer of plant, fruits and vegetable (regulated articles) MUST apply for an import permit prior to importing these products. Incoming travellers who transport such items in their carry-on or checked luggage, MUST declare them to the Agriculture Services and/ or Customs Authority for inspection

An import permit is issued after Plant Services is satisfied that the items for import pose no risk to the Turks and Caicos Islands and through scientific investigation.

The Department of Agriculture is actively working with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to obtain all relevant information on the cyclospora outbreak, including the geographic distribution, incidence rate, and pathogenesis.
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