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Cryptosporidium

Cryptosporidium

What is cryptosporidiosis?

Cryptosporidiosis is a diarrheal disease caused by the Cryptosporidium parvum parasite, also referred to as "Crypto." Crypto lives in the intestine of infected animals and humans and is passed through stool.

What causes infection with cryptosporidiosis?

Crypto is primarily transmitted by swallowing water contaminated with the feces from infected animals or humans. In addition to contaminated drinking water, recreational water from swimming pools, hot tubs, fountains, lakes, rivers, ponds or streams can also carry Crypto. Crypto is chlorine-resistant and can live for days in chlorine-treated water.

What are the symptoms?

Some people with Crypto do not have symptoms. But most people will have watery diarrhea. Other symptoms include:

  • Fever.
  • Nausea and vomiting.
  • Belly pain.
  • Weight loss.

Symptoms usually begin 2 to 10 days after becoming infected. Symptoms can last 1 to 2 weeks. Sometimes symptoms come and go in cycles. You may feel better for a few days and then feel worse again before the illness is over.

How are infections with cryptosporidiosis diagnosed?

Your doctor will request stool samples, sometimes several, and send them to a laboratory for testing.

How is it treated?

Most people with healthy immune systems will recover without special treatment. Dehydration caused by diarrhea is the most common complication. Do not use medicines to prevent diarrhea until you ask your health care professional.

To prevent dehydration, take frequent sips of a rehydration drink (such as Pedialyte). Try to drink a cup of water or rehydration drink for each large, loose stool you have. Soda and fruit juices have too much sugar and not enough of the important electrolytes that are lost during diarrhea, and they should not be used to rehydrate.

Some people are treated with the prescription medicine nitazoxanide.

How can you prevent Crypto?

You can help prevent the spread of Crypto by washing your hands frequently and carefully with soap and scrubbing all surfaces that may come in contact with feces from humans or animals. Do not use public swimming pools during and at least 2 weeks after diarrhea stops. When possible, keep children who have diarrhea away from uninfected children.

By Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
W. David Colby IV, MSc, MD, FRCPC - Infectious Disease
Last Revised October 18, 2012

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

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