Information on Cryptosporidiosis (Cryptosporidium parvum Infection)10/02/07
What is Cryptosporidiosis?
Cryptosporidiosis ("Crypto") is a diarrheal illness caused by Cryptosporidium parvum, a microscopic parasite that lives in the intestines of infected humans and animals.
What are the symptoms of Cryptosporidiosis?
The most common symptoms are diarrhea (loose, watery stools), stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and sometimes fever. Symptoms may come and go. Many people do not develop symptoms at all. In healthy people symptoms usually last about 2 weeks. However, Cryptosporidiosis can be life threatening for infants and for persons with compromised immune systems (persons with HIV/AIDS, cancer, or who are transplant recipients, or who are on immunosuppressive drugs).
How does a person become infected with Cryptosporidium parvum?
A person can become infected by:
- Swallowing water containing the oocysts (oh-oh-cysts) which are the infectious stage of the parasites. The oocysts can be found in contaminated lakes, rivers, springs, ponds, streams,
- Eating uncooked food, especially unwashed vegetables or fruit, contaminated by Cryptosporidium.
- Oral/anal sexual contact with an infected person.
- Contact with contaminated surfaces such as children's toys, bathroom fixtures, diaper changing tables, diaper pails, etc.
- Not washing their hands after handling soiled diapers or after playing with infected animals, especially calves, puppies and kittens.
How long after being infected does a person get sick?
Generally from 2 to 10 days (average 7 days).
When can someone with Cryptosporidiosis spread it to others?
Infected persons can pass the parasites in their stool for several weeks after symptoms stop, even if they have taken medication.
- Child Care Restrictions - Children with diarrhea should be excluded from child care until 24 hours after their symptoms resolve.
- Work Restrictions - Health care workers, food service workers, and child care providers who work directly with children, should be excluded from work until 24 hours after their symptoms resolve.
- Children and adults with Cryptosporidiosis should stay out of swimming pools, hot tubs or other recreational water features for two weeks after their diarrhea stops.
What should I do if I think I have Cryptosporidiosis?
See your doctor! Special lab tests must be ordered to identify Cryptosporidium parvum infection.
How can the spread of Cryptosporidiosis be prevented?
- Wash your hands with soap and water after using the toilet, changing diapers, or handling animals. Alcohol based hand sanitizers do not kill Crypto!
- Wash your hands before preparing and eating food.
- The usual disinfectants, including most commonly used bleach solutions, have little effect on Crypto parasites. For surfaces, toys and play equipment use the following technique:
- Scrub with warm soapy water.
- Rinse with warm water.
- Dry with disposable towels.
- Apply 3% hydrogen peroxide solution (undiluted from the bottle) to soak contaminated surfaces. (It should be kept in the brown bottle it comes in or stored in the dark when not in use. Read the label!)
- Leave wet for at least 20 minutes.
- Dry with disposable towels if necessary.
What is the treatment for Cryptosporidiosis?
A physician may prescribe a medication in some circumstances. Nitazoxanide (Alinia) is the treatment of choice for Crypto. Persons with diarrhea should drink plenty of fluids to keep hydrated. Infants, the elderly, and persons with compromised immune systems or other chronic illnesses, are at greater risk of serious illness as a result of Cryptosporidiosis.