Cryptosporidiosis (krip-toe-spo-rid-e-o-sis), is a diarrheal
disease caused by a microscopic parasite,
. It 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 also 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 disinfection. During the past two decades,
has become recognized as one of the most common causes of
waterborne disease (drinking and recreational) in humans in the
United States. The parasite is found in every region of the United
States and throughout the world.
What are the symptoms of
Symptoms include diarrhea, loose or watery stool, stomach
cramps, upset stomach, and a slight fever. Some people have no
symptoms. Symptoms generally begin 2 -10 days after being infected.
In persons with average immune systems, symptoms usually last about
two weeks. The symptoms may go in cycles in which you may seem to
get better for a few days, then feel worse, before the illness
lives in the intestine of infected humans or
animals. Millions of
can be released in a bowel
movement from an infected human or animal. You can become infected
after accidentally swallowing the parasite.
found in soil, food, water, or surfaces that have been contaminated
with the feces from infected humans or animals.
not spread by contact with blood.
can be spread
Putting something in your mouth or accidentally swallowing
something that has come in contact with the stool of a person or
animal infected with
Swallowing recreational water contaminated with
(Recreational water is water in swimming pools, hot tubs, jacuzzis,
fountains, lakes, rivers, springs, ponds, or streams that can be
contaminated with sewage or feces from humans or animals. Note:
is chlorine resistant and can live for days in
Eating uncooked food contaminated with
picked up from surfaces
(such as toys, bathroom fixtures, changing tables, diaper pails)
contaminated with stool from an infected person
Should I worry about spreading infection to others?
can be very contagious. Follow these
guidelines to avoid spreading
Wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet,
changing diapers, and before eating or preparing food.
Avoid swimming in recreational water (pools, hot tubs, lakes or
rivers, the ocean, etc.) if you have
and for at least
two weeks after diarrhea stops.You can pass
stool and contaminate water for several weeks after your symptoms
have ended. This has resulted in many outbreaks of
among recreational water users. Note: you are not protected in a
chlorinated pool because
is chlorine resistant and
can live for days in pools.
Avoid fecal exposure during sex.
Am I at risk for severe disease?
can infect all people, some groups are
more 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 HIV/AIDS
Cancer and transplant patients who are taking certain
Those with inherited diseases that affect the immune
If you have a severely weakened immune system, consult with your
health care provider for additional guidance.
How is a
Your health care provider will ask you to submit stool samples
to see if you are infected. Because testing for
be difficult, you may be asked to submit several stool specimens
over several days. Because tests for
routinely done in most laboratories, your health care provider
should specifically request testing for the parasite.
What is the treatment for
There is no effective treatment. Most people with a healthy
immune system will recover on their own. If you have diarrhea,
drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Rapid loss of fluids
because of diarrhea can be life-threatening in babies. Parents
should consult their health care provider about fluid replacement
therapy options for babies. Antidiarrheal medicine may help slow
down diarrhea, but consult with your health care provider before
taking it. People who are in poor health or who have a weakened
immune system are at higher risk for more severe and more prolonged
illness. For persons with AIDS, anti-retroviral therapy that
improves immune status will also decrease or eliminate symptoms of
is usually not cured and may
come back if the immune status worsens. See your health care
provider to discuss anti-retroviral therapy used to improve immune
How can I prevent Crypto?
Practice good hygiene. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and
Wash hands after using the toilet and before handling or eating
food (especially for persons with diarrhea).
Wash hands after every diaper change, especially if you work
with diaper-aged children, even if you are wearing gloves.
Protect others by not swimming if experiencing diarrhea
(essential for children in diapers).
Avoid water that might be contaminated.
Avoid swallowing recreational water.
Avoid drinking untreated water from shallow wells, lakes,
rivers, springs, ponds, and streams.
Avoid drinking untreated water during community-wide outbreaks
of disease caused by contaminated drinking water. In the United
States, nationally distributed brands of bottled or canned
carbonated soft drinks are safe to drink. Commercially packaged
noncarbonated soft drinks and fruit juices that do not require
refrigeration until after they are opened (for example, those that
can be stored without refrigeration on grocery shelves) also are
Avoid using ice or drinking untreated water when traveling in
countries where the water supply might be unsafe. If you are unable
to avoid drinking or using water that might be contaminated, then
treat the water yourself by:
Heating the water to a rolling boil for at least 1 minute or
using a filter that has an absolute pore size of at least 1 micron,
or one that has been NSF-rated for "cyst removal."
Do not rely on chemical disinfection of
it is highly resistant to inactivation by chlorine or iodine.
Avoid food that might be contaminated.
Wash and/or peel all raw vegetables and fruits before
Use uncontaminated water to wash all food that is to be eaten
Avoid eating uncooked foods when traveling in countries with
minimal water treatment and sanitation systems.
Avoid fecal exposure during sex.
Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention, May 2001
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a