Cryptosporidiosis FAQs

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What is Cryptosporidiosis?
Cryptosporidiosis (crypto) is a disease caused by Cryptosporidium parvum, a tiny parasite. Both people and animals may get crypto. The most common symptoms are diarrhea, nausea, fever, stomach cramps, and vomiting. In healthy people, the illness usually lasts 1 to 2 weeks. In people with poor immune systems (those with HIV/AIDS, cancer, or recent organ transplants), the infection may be severe and last longer.

How is Crypto Spread?
The stool (feces) of infected people or animals has Cryptosporidium parasites in it. You can get crypto by:

  • touching something with stool on it and putting your hand in your mouth
  • eating food or drinking water that has stool in it

You are more likely to get crypto if you:
have contact with stool from an infected person through sexual contact or while caring for a person with crypto 

  • are a child in a day-care
  • work at a day-care center
  • have contact with infected animals

How Do I Protect Myself?

  • Always wash your hands (and tell others to do the same)
    • before fixing food
    • before eating
    • after using the toilet
    • after changing diapers
    • after changing clothes or bedding soiled with stool
    • after caring for people with diarrhea
    • after touching or petting animals
  • Avoid sexual practices that put you in direct contact with stool
  • Do not drink from rivers, lakes, or swimming pools
  • For extra protection, boil water for one minute to kill the parasite if you:
    • are infected with HIV
    • have recently had an organ transplant
    • are being treated for cancer
    • are traveling in a country where you are not sure if the water is safe
    • Allow the water to cool before you drink it
    • Use this treated water to brush your teeth, to make ice, and to wash fruits and vegetables

What if You Think You Have Crypto?
Drink plenty of fluids and get extra rest. See your doctor as soon as possible. Your doctor may want to have your stool tested for Cryptosporidium parasites. There is no drug to treat this disease but your doctor can provide medication to help you feel better.