A health warning has been issued as 157 British tourists are struck down with a food poisoning bug in Cancun.
There are at least 24 hotels in this area of Mexico which are affected by the bug, which has been spreading since June.
Public Health England have reported that the food bug likely spread from tainted food, which has been served at all of the hotels. While 157 people have fallen ill, 119 of them have so far been confirmed to have visited the Cancun area. Over 300 people have made claims with Simpson Millar solicitors, which are now being looked into.
Victims have been experiencing stomach cramps and diarrhoea as a result of the Cyclospora bug.
'This outbreak is very concerning. People are coming to us every hour complaining of sickness,’ said Nick Harris, Head of Holiday Claims with Simpson Millar. 'Many have been ill for over a week and have only just been properly diagnosed with the bug. They have been suffering severe diarrhoea and stomach cramps. I now fear these recent warning notices may be too little too late. The bug has already spread out of control in the resort. Tour operators need to do more to ensure the safety of their customers when holidaying abroad.'
Thomson runs some holidays in the region, and have recently put out an official statement in response to the situation.
'There is not a particular hotel, hotel chain or tour operator implicated and the source of the issue is still being investigated,’ they said, clearly keen to ensure that tourists are not put off their travel plans. 'We are working with relevant partners and authorities both in Mexico and the UK to ensure customer wellbeing and to investigate the matter.'
It will be some time before the cause of the outbreak is narrowed down, though it is likely to be food delivered from the same food service company to all of the hotels in the area.
Behind the Outbreak
This particular bug is known as ‘Traveler’s Diarrhea’ thanks to the fact that it is endemic in certain areas and is normally caught while tourists are abroad.
The illness can recover without treatment so long as the patient has a strong immune system, and symptoms can go away for a while before relapsing. The effects of the bug may only linger for a few days, but there is also a risk of them lasting for a month or even longer if left untreated. Anyone who has been in Cancun and feels they are suffering from similar symptoms should seek help from their doctor as soon as possible.
The bug can be prevented at all stages of food preparation. The manufacturers of the food should maintain high levels of sanitisation, ensuring that the food does not come into contact with any contaminants – most notably faecal matter, usually transferred to the food when a worker does not wash their hands after using the toilet.
The infection can also be prevented with hygiene at the restaurant level, with both chefs and servers encouraged to wash their hands often or use disposable gloves when dealing with food. It can only be caught from infected persons, so this one outbreak could potentially be sourced back to one factory worker in the food production chain who has come down with the infection.
Finally, tourists should remember also to keep their own hands clean after using the toilet or touching anything that they cannot guarantee is clean, before serving themselves or others. This can reduce the likelihood of an infection.