Cancun parasite outbreak: Contaminated food making tourists ill in Mexican holiday resorts
British holidaymakers visiting Mexico are being warned about a brutal bug that is ravaging resorts in the country.
Fourteen tourists staying at luxury hotels in the Riviera Maya resort and Cancun have experienced crippling stomach pains, sickness and diarrhoea due to an illness that is passed on through contaminated food.
The cause of the illness is the cyclospora cayetanensis parasite, which is transmitted by faeces coming into contact with water and food. This the fifth year in a row that the parasite has infected tourists in the region.
600 Brits affected since 2015
Nearly 600 British people have been infected with the bug since 2015, and the same areas of Mexico were the subject of a public health warning three years ago. Now medical experts are advising anyone who has visited the affected resorts and is feeling ill to seek medical attention.
Advice on the Health Protection Scotland website reads, "All travellers to Mexico are strongly advised to maintain a high standard of food, water and personal hygiene even if staying in luxury resorts.
"Infection is transmitted through consumption of contaminated food or water, direct person to person spread does not occur. Foods often implicated in outbreaks include soft fruits like raspberries and salad products such as coriander, basil and lettuce.
"On return from Mexico, if travellers have any symptoms such as those described above, they should seek medical attention."
Bug is transmitted via contaminated food
A spokesperson for Health Protection Scotland confirmed an outbreak of Cyclospora in Mexico, stating, "There have been seasonal outbreaks of cyclospora infection in returning travellers from Mexico over the past four years.
"The majority of cases stayed at the Riviera Maya and Cancun regions of Mexico. Health Protection Scotland is aware of eight cases in Scotland this year with a history of travel to Mexico.
"Cyclospora Infection can cause diarrhoea and illness. The infection can be more serious in individuals with an impaired immune system. Prevention is through following good food and water hygiene practices at all times while on holiday.
“Anyone with symptoms should tell their GP that they have been abroad."
In 2017 there were 78 British people who were struck with the illness, while the year before 443 tourists fell ill due to the parasite in Cancun and Riviera Maya.
A total of 79 tourists reportedly also fell ill with the same symptoms in 2015.
Five hotels affected so far
Nick Harris, head of travel at Simpson Millar solicitors, who is representing 450 victims caught up in the current and past outbreaks, said, "We have been inundated with people who have fallen ill in the resorts.
"So far we have been contacted by people who have fallen ill in five different hotels. But I understand there are others affected and as this is peak season like other years it has the potential to spread like wildfire.
"People have saved all year only to be let down by their tour operator at the first hurdle. They knew this bug is rife in Mexico but haven't told people preferring to keep quiet. But we have spoken with tourists who said the first they knew of the illness was when letters were given to them in the resort. By then it is too late.
"Tour operators need to do more instead of putting profit before safety of their customers who have put their trust in them. "