It is caused by a parasite called
These parasites live in the intestines of infected people and animals. They can also contaminate objects and surfaces that people touch. They may also be in soil where food is grown. The parasite can also be in recreational waters where people swim.
The infection is caused by swallowing the parasite. When the parasite enters your intestine, it comes out of its shell. It will multiply and may cause an infection. Eventually, it is passed from your body through a bowel movement.
Some sources of cryptosporidiosis are:
Humans and animals:
Contact with diapers or clothing that are contaminated with the infection
Contact with animal feces by touching animals, cleaning cages, or visiting barns
Sexual activity that involves contact with feces
Eating food grown in, or contaminated by, infected soil
Drinking unpasteurized milk, dairy products, or apple juice
Eating food that was handled by someone who is infected or washed in contaminated water
Accidentally swallowing water in contaminated recreational water, such as a lake, ocean, bay, stream, hot tub, swimming pool, or water park
Drinking water or ice that is contaminated
People who are at increased risk for cryptosporidiosis include:
Young children, especially if they are in day care
Day care workers or those who work in a group setting
People whose immune system is weakened by cancer,
, or an organ transplant
People who engage in oral-anal sex
International travelers, backpackers, hikers, and campers
Symptoms usually begin about a week after infection. Some people will not have any.
Symptoms consist mainly of:
Upset stomach, vomiting
The symptoms may come and go before you are finally better.
Your doctor will take one or more stool samples. They will be sent to a lab to be examined.
People with healthy immune systems usually recover without needing treatment. Recovery can take several weeks. It may take up to one month. If you have severe diarrhea, you may be given:
—a drug recently approved to treat the diarrhea associated with cryptosporidiosis in healthy people
People with a weakened immune system have a greater risk of getting this infection. People with AIDS have this higher risk. They are also likely to have a more severe and longer infection. They may become permanently infected.
There are several important measures you can take to lower your risk of getting cryptosporidiosis:
Wash your hands:
After using the toilet
After changing a diaper
Before handling or eating food
After contact with animals or soil
After contact with infected people
Drink safe water:
Boil water if you are unsure if it’s safe
Avoid swallowing water when swimming in recreational water
Eat safe food:
Wash vegetables that will be eaten raw
Drink only pasteurized milk and juice
Use precautions during sexual activity
If you are infected with cryptosporidiosis, it’s important to avoid spreading the parasite to others by:
Beers MH, Fletcher AJ, Jones TV, et al.
The Merck Manual of Medical Information: Second Home Edition
. Merck Research Laboratories: Whitehouse Station, NJ; 2003.
Cryptosporidiosis. Directors of Health Promotion and Education website. Available at www.astdhpphe.org/infect/crypto.html. Accessed September 19, 2005.
Cryptosporidiosis: a simple fact sheet. AIDS Treatment Data Network website. Available at www.atdn.org/simple/crypto.html. Accessed September 19, 2005.
infection. Department of Health and Human Services. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dpd/parasites/cryptosporidiosis/factsht_cryptosporidiosis.htm. Accessed September 19, 2005.
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