02.03.2024

Warning to holidaymakers heading to Mexico over outbreak of serious stomach illness

Dozens of Brits holidaying in Mexico have caught a serious stomach illness that triggers explosive diarrhoea, health officials warned today. At least 74 people are known to have fallen ill with cyclosporiasis since May, with more than half of these having returned from the country.

Most were traced back to all-inclusive hotels in the Riviera Maya and Cancún regions, where thousands of Brits flock to every year.

The unpleasant illness, which can also cause stomach cramps and flatulence, is caused by consuming food or drink contaminated with cyclospora, a microscopic parasite.

The sickness can last for more than a month but most cases resolve within a few days.

At least 74 people are known to have fallen ill with cyclosporiasis since May, with more than half of these having returned from the country. Most traced back to all-inclusive hotels in the Riviera Maya and Cancún regions, where thousands of Brits flock to every year. Pictured, Cancun

At least 74 people are known to have fallen ill with cyclosporiasis since May, with more than half of these having returned from the country. Most traced back to all-inclusive hotels in the Riviera Maya and Cancún regions, where thousands of Brits flock to every year. Pictured, Cancun

Last year one family launched legal action against holiday giant TUI after they were struck down with the illness during their five-star luxury break to Mexico. They reported seeing flies, cats, birds and raccoons around the food, some of which was not chilled and was served with dirty cutlery. The family also claimed they were bed-bound for three days and still suffered symptoms following their return to the UK. Pictured, Katie Richards, 33, (left) her husband Ashley, 34, (right) and their daughter Ruby (centre)

Last year one family launched legal action against holiday giant TUI after they were struck down with the illness during their five-star luxury break to Mexico. They reported seeing flies, cats, birds and raccoons around the food, some of which was not chilled and was served with dirty cutlery. The family also claimed they were bed-bound for three days and still suffered symptoms following their return to the UK. Pictured, Katie Richards, 33, (left) her husband Ashley, 34, (right) and their daughter Ruby (centre)

Although usually mild, it can be life-threatening in immunocompromised patients.

UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) officials revealed all 74 cases seen in the past three months were reported in England, Scotland and Wales.

Just over half of were female, with the average age of patients being 44. Travel information was known in 52 of the cases.

Forty-eight had been to Mexico. Of them, 42 stayed in different hotels in the Riviera Maya and Cancún regions, on the Caribbean coastline.

Most reported eating a wide variety of different food and drink within their hotel as part of an all-inclusive holiday package, UKHSA chiefs said.

Cyclospora, a microscopic parasite (pictured), can cause explosive diarrhoea, stomach cramps and flatulence. The sickness can last for more than a month but most cases resolve within a few days

Cyclospora, a microscopic parasite (pictured), can cause explosive diarrhoea, stomach cramps and flatulence. The sickness can last for more than a month but most cases resolve within a few days

Cyclospora most often occurs in tropical and subtropical regions of the world including South and Central America, South and South East Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Seasonal outbreaks of cyclosporiasis in UK travellers returning from Mexico have been reported annually since 2015 — excluding 2020 and 2021 — with the number of cases fluctuating each year.

Some 79 instances were recorded in the first year, with this rising to 359 in 2016. Last year, just 36 cases were logged.

More than half a million Brits travel to the country every year.

Health officials warned those travelling to Mexico today to maintain good food and water hygiene at all times even if staying in high-end all-inclusive resorts.

They advised tourists choose freshly prepared food that is thoroughly cooked and served piping hot.

Certain foods, including fresh uncooked berries and herbs, unpeeled fruit and salad items should be avoided, as these can be difficult to clean, they noted.

The stomach infection is diagnosed by testing of stool samples, and although most cases resolve on their own, antibiotics can be given to treat severe or prolonged infections.

It comes after one family launched legal action against holiday giant TUI last year after they were struck down with the illness during their five-star luxury break to Mexico.

They reported seeing flies, cats, birds and raccoons around the food, some of which was not chilled and was served with dirty cutlery.

The family also claimed they were bed-bound for three days and still suffered symptoms following their return to the UK.

What is cyclospora? How is it transmitted? Everything you need to know

Cyclosporiasis is an intestinal illness that is best treated by an antibiotic.

It’s caused by a microscopic parasite, called Cyclospora cayetanensis.

When this parasite contaminates food or water and is then ingested, it can cause the intestinal illness.

Symptoms of the stomach illness include diarrhoea, with frequent, sometimes explosive, bowel movements, loss of appetite, weight loss and stomach cramps and pain.

Other common signs reported include bloating, increased gas, nausea, fatigue, vomiting, body aches, headache, fever, and other flu-like symptoms.

If left untreated, cyclosporiasis may last anywhere from a few days to a month, or longer.

The stomach infection is diagnosed by testing of stool samples, and although most cases resolve on their own, antibiotics can be given to treat severe or prolonged infections.

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