About cryptosporidiosis

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.

 



What are the symptoms for cryptosporidiosis?

The telltale symptoms of Crypto include:

Symptoms generally begin within a week of exposure and can last two weeks. However, in one study published in BMC Public Health, some people had symptoms that persisted 24 to 36 months.

With long-term symptoms, a person is at increased risk of Weight loss, Dehydration, and malnutrition. This can be particularly life-threatening in young babies and people with weakened immune systems, such as those who have HIV or who are undergoing chemotherapy. There are several parasitic infections that can have similar or different symptoms.



What are the causes for cryptosporidiosis?

A person can develop Crypto after coming in contact with contaminated feces. This exposure often happens by swallowing recreational swimming water. Anywhere people congregate in water — swimming pools, water parks, hot tubs, lakes, and even the ocean — can contain Cryptosporidium. Other serious infections can also be contracted in these environments.

According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, Cryptosporidium germs are a leading cause of waterborne disease in this country. Young children who often splash and play in water are susceptible to the infection, which peaks in prime swimming season in the summer and fall.

The CDC reports that millions of Cryptosporidium parasites can be shed in the bowel movement of just one infected person, making Crypto highly contagious. And because the parasite is surrounded by an outer shell, it’s resistant to chlorine and other disinfectants. The parasite can live for days, even in pools properly treated with chemicals.

Crypto germs can also be spread through hand-to-mouth contact. They can be found on any surface that’s been contaminated with infected feces. Because of this, the infection can also be transmitted by:

  • playing with contaminated toys
  • touching bathroom surfaces without properly washing your hands
  • handling animals
  • having sex
  • drinking untreated water
  • touching dirty diapers
  • handling unwashed produce grown in contaminated soil



What are the treatments for cryptosporidiosis?

Although Crypto can infect all people, some groups are likely to develop more serious illness.

  • Young children and pregnant women may be more susceptible to the dehydration resulting from diarrhea and should drink plenty of fluids while ill.
  • If you have a severely weakened immune system, you are at risk for more serious disease. Your symptoms may be more severe and could lead to serious or life-threatening illness. Examples of persons with weakened immune systems include those with AIDS; cancer and transplant patients who are taking certain immunosuppressive drugs; and those with inherited diseases that affect the immune system.



What are the risk factors for cryptosporidiosis?

A person can develop Crypto after coming in contact with contaminated feces. This exposure often happens by swallowing recreational swimming water. Anywhere people congregate in water — swimming pools, water parks, hot tubs, lakes, and even the ocean — can contain Cryptosporidium. Other serious infections can also be contracted in these environments.

According to the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, Cryptosporidium germs are a leading cause of waterborne disease in this country. Young children who often splash and play in water are susceptible to the infection, which peaks in prime swimming season in the summer and fall.

The CDC reports that millions of Cryptosporidium parasites can be shed in the bowel movement of just one infected person, making Crypto highly contagious. And because the parasite is surrounded by an outer shell, it’s resistant to chlorine and other disinfectants. The parasite can live for days, even in pools properly treated with chemicals.

Crypto germs can also be spread through hand-to-mouth contact. They can be found on any surface that’s been contaminated with infected feces. Because of this, the infection can also be transmitted by:

  • playing with contaminated toys
  • touching bathroom surfaces without properly washing your hands
  • handling animals
  • having sex
  • drinking untreated water
  • touching dirty diapers
  • handling unwashed produce grown in contaminated soil



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