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Cryptosporidium Infection (Cryptosporidiosis)

Closeup of hands in sink with running water. Hands are covered with soap suds.

Cryptosporidium infection is also called cryptosporidiosis. It is an illness that affects your intestines. It is caused by the parasite Cryptosporidium. This parasite is found in the stool of infected people or animals, which can then contaminate food or water. People are often infected by contaminated water. This most often happens when someone swallows water from a pool, lake, or stream.

Common Symptoms of Cryptosporidium Infection

The main symptom is watery diarrhea. This starts about 2 to 10 days after exposure. You may also have stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting, or a fever.

Diagnosing Cryptosporidium Infection

A sample of your stool is checked for the parasite. More than one stool sample may be needed.

Treating Cryptosporidium  Infection

Most people get better within 1 to 2 weeks, but symptoms last longer in some people. Treatment is rarely needed. While you are recovering, drink plenty of fluids. This helps prevent dehydration. Do not take antidiarrheal medication unless your doctor instructs you to. This medication can prevent your body from getting rid of the parasite. It can also make the illness last longer.

Call the Doctor If You Have:

  • Bloody stool

  • Severe vomiting

  • Severe abdominal pain

  • Signs of dehydration (dry, sticky mouth; very little urine; very dark urine)

Preventing Cryptosporidium Infection

Follow these steps to lessen the chances of getting or passing on this infection:

  • Don’t swallow or drink water from pools, lakes, streams, or rivers. When traveling outside the country or camping, do not drink or cook with water unless you know it’s safe. Boil any water you use for at least 60 seconds first.

  • If you drink well water, have it tested once a year for germs. Be sure the test includes Cryptosporidium.

  • Wash your hands well with soap and warm water. Do this often. Make sure to wash before preparing meals. Wash after going to the bathroom, changing diapers, or handling pets. Teach your child to do the same.

  • Use a food thermometer when cooking. Cook poultry to at least 165°F (74°C). Cook pork and ground meats to at least 160°F (71°C). Cook beef or lamb to at least 145°F (63°C).

  • Wash fruits and vegetables well before eating them.

  • If you are infected with Cryptosporidium, talk to your health care provider about special precautions to take.

 

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