What is it? Cryptosporidiosis, crypto for short, is a disease caused by microscopic parasites. Crypto parasites live in the intestines and are passed in the stool of an infected person or animal. They are able to live outside the body for a long time and are very resistant to cleaning products – even those with bleach. Crypto is a common disease in the U.S. and around the world.
How is it spread? Crypto is easily spread thru:
• Drinking infected water (well water, streams or rivers)
• Swimming in an infected swimming pool, or hot tub
• Eating uncooked food that is infected with crypto. Wash fruits and vegetables with water that is not infected if you plan to eat them raw.
• Touching your mouth with hands that have become infected by changing a diaper, caring for an infected person or handling a sick animal
What are the symptoms? The most common symptom is watery diarrhea. Other symptoms may include:
• Stomach pain or cramps
• Throwing up
• Weight loss
Symptoms usually begin 2 – 10 days after exposure and may last up to two weeks. Sometimes a person with crypto will feel better and then have symptoms come back.
Anyone who has these symptoms should see their doctor.
Who gets it? Some people are more likely to get crypto than others. They include:
• Children in day care centers
• Child care workers
• Parents of infected children
• People who take care of other people with crypto
• Hikers, and campers who drink unfiltered, untreated water
• People who drink from shallow, unprotected wells that are not treated
• People, including swimmers, who swallow water from infected sources
• People who handle infected cattle
• International travelers
• People exposed to human stool through sexual contact
Who does it affect the most? Crypto can affect anyone. However, some people are more likely to develop a serious illness. These include:
• Young children
• Pregnant women
• People with weakened immune systems, such as those with cancer or AIDS and transplant patients
Can it be prevented? Yes! To prevent getting crypto, you should:
• Wash your hands! Each time you use the bathroom, prepare food and change diapers. Wash your hands well with soap and warm running water for at least 20 seconds.
• Protect others by not swimming if you have diarrhea. You should not swim for at least two weeks after diarrhea stops.
• Do not swallow water from places such as pools, hot tubs, lakes, rivers, or oceans.
• Do not drink from lakes, rivers, springs, streams or shallow wells.
• Foreign travelers should avoid ice or water that is not bottled.
What’s important to remember? You cannot tell if water has crypto in it. The parasites are so small that they can’t be seen without a microscope. If you believe you may have crypto, see your doctor.
For more information: http://www.cdc.gov/crypto/. You may also call the Health Center’s Disease Control Division at 250-5109.