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Cryptosporidiosis facts*

*Cryptosporidiosis facts by

  • Cryptosporidiosis is a diarrheal disease caused by parasites named Cryptosporidium; the parasites have a life cycle that can be completed in humans and many types of animals.
  • The disease cryptosporidiosis is spread from person to person after the parasites are shed into the environment; they may be found in soil, food, water, or on surfaces that have been contaminated with feces from infected humans or animals.
  • Symptoms of cryptosporidiosis include
  • Some individuals will have no symptoms at all.
  • Symptoms usually begin two to 10 days after becoming infected.
  • Symptoms last about one to two weeks. The symptoms may go in cycles -- someone may seem to get better for a few days and feel worse for a few days before the infection ends.
  • People at most risk for this disease are children in day-care centers, child-care workers, parents with infected children, international travelers, backpackers, hikers and campers who drink unfiltered or untreated water, swimmers who swallow water from contaminated sources, people exposed to human feces during sexual contact, and individuals who handle infected cattle.
  • Those at risk for serious illness are individuals with a severely weakened immune system; young children and pregnant women may be more susceptible to dehydration.
  • Individuals suspecting cryptosporidiosis infection should see their primary-care physician.
  • Testing usually requires submission of several stool specimens over several days; tests for cryptosporidiosis are not routinely done in most laboratories so the results will require sending specimens out to a special lab.
  • Although some patients can self-cure without medication, treatment for this disease is the prescription drug nitazoxanide (Alinia); other treatment includes hydration and possibly antidiarrheal medication. Immunodepressed patients may have difficulty clearing this infection.
  • People diagnosed with cryptosporidiosis are very contagious and need to practice good hygiene with soap and water, avoid swimming in recreational water such as pools, hot tubs, rivers, and lakes (for at least two weeks after the diarrhea stops), avoid sexual practices that might result in oral exposure to stool, avoid close contact with immunosuppressed individuals, and children with cryptosporidiosis diarrhea should be excluded from child-care settings until the diarrhea has stopped.

What is cryptosporidiosis?

Cryptosporidiosis is a diarrheal disease caused by microscopic parasites, Cryptosporidium, that can live in the intestine of humans and animals and is passed in the stool of an infected person or animal. Both the disease and the parasite are commonly known as "Crypto." The parasite is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive outside the body for long periods of time and makes it very resistant to chlorine-based disinfectants. During the past 2 decades, Crypto has become recognized as one of the most common causes of waterborne disease (recreational water and drinking water) in humans in the United States. The parasite is found in every region of the United States and throughout the world.

How is cryptosporidiosis spread?

Cryptosporidium lives in the intestine of infected humans or animals. An infected person or animal sheds Crypto parasites in the stool. Millions of Crypto germs can be released in a bowel movement from an infected human or animal. Shedding of Crypto in the stool begins when the symptoms begin and can last for weeks after the symptoms (e.g., diarrhea) stop. You can become infected after accidentally swallowing the parasite. Cryptosporidium may be found in soil, food, water, or surfaces that have been contaminated with the feces from infected humans or animals. Crypto is not spread by contact with blood.

Crypto can be spread:

  • By putting something in your mouth or accidentally swallowing something that has come into contact with stool of a person or animal infected with Crypto.
  • By swallowing recreational water contaminated with Crypto. Recreational water is water in swimming pools, hot tubs, Jacuzzis, fountains, lakes, rivers, springs, ponds, or streams. Recreational water can be contaminated with sewage or feces from humans or animals.
  • By swallowing water or beverages contaminated with stool from infected humans or animals.
  • By eating uncooked food contaminated with Crypto. Thoroughly wash with uncontaminated water all vegetables and fruits you plan to eat raw. See below for information on making water safe.
  • By touching your mouth with contaminated hands. Hands can become contaminated through a variety of activities, such as touching surfaces (e.g., toys, bathroom fixtures, changing tables, diaper pails) that have been contaminated by stool from an infected person, changing diapers, caring for an infected person, changing diapers, caring for an infected person, and handling an infected cow or calf.
  • By exposure to human feces through sexual contact.


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