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Cryptosporidiosis is an infection that causes diarrhea. It is sometimes called Crypto. It is caused by a parasite found in stool. You can get this infection after eating food or drinking water that is contaminated with stool. This includes swallowing water while swimming. You can also get infected if you touch things or surfaces contaminated with stool. You can also get the infection from another person.
The parasite has an outer shell. Because of this, using chlorine to clean water may not kill the parasite. Crypto is one of the most common causes of waterborne disease in the U.S.
The parasite is found throughout the world. But you are more likely to get the infection if you travel to rural areas in developing countries. Or if you often eat or drink in areas where sanitation is poor. Outbreaks have also occurred in the U.S. when water supplies or swimming pools become infected.
The disease is spread by accidentally swallowing anything that has come into contact with the stool of a person or animal with the infection. This includes:
Cryptosporidiosis is normally not a serious disease in healthy people. But it can lead to a life-threatening illness for people with a weak immune system. Those at risk are:
Each person may have slightly different symptoms. These are the most common symptoms:
You may not have any symptoms. If symptoms do develop, they often last about 2 weeks and sometimes longer. But even if you have no symptoms, the parasite is passed in your stool for up to 2 months. During this time you are at risk of spreading the infection to others.
Most people with a healthy immune system do not need to be treated as cryptosporidiosis will resolve on its own. In those who have weak immune systems, the focus of treatment is often on getting the immunity back. Otherwise, a medicine called nitazoxanide can be used to treat this parasite. Your healthcare provider will figure out the best treatment for you based on:
No treatment works fully against the infection. If you have a healthy immune system, you will likely recover on your own. People who are in poor health or have a weak immune system may get a more serious infection. In some cases, you may need to take medicine for diarrhea. It’s important to drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated.
There is no vaccine to prevent cryptosporidiosis. The best way to protect yourself is with good personal hygiene. Also:
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your healthcare provider:
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