Cryptosporidium a health concern?
Cryptosporidium also known as crypto, is a parasite that causes
Cryptosporidiosis(krip-toe-spo-rid-e-o-sis). It affects the intestines
and is typically an acute short-term infection. It is spread through
the fecal-oral route, often through contaminated water.
The parasite is protected by an outer shell that
allows it to survive outside the body for long periods of time and
makes it very resistant to chlorine disinfection.
Despite not being identified until 1976, it is one
of the most common waterborne diseases in humans in the United States
and is found worldwide.
The following groups have an elevated
risk of being exposed to cryptosporidium:
- People who swim regularly in pools with
- Child care workers
- Parents of infected children
- Care takers of other people with
- International travelers
- Backpackers, hikers, and campers untreated water
- People who swallow water from contaminated
- People who handle infected cattle
- People exposed to human feces through sexual
Most people can tolerate small numbers of the
parasite in their drinking water with nothing more than a case of
diarrhea. However, for people who have weak immune system, such as
those with AIDS, cancer and transplant patients who are taking certain
immunosuppressive drugs, and those with inherited diseases that affect
the immune system, are more at risk.
What are the symptoms of Crypto and how
long will it last?
Symptoms include diarrhea, loose or watery stool,
stomach cramps, upset stomach, and a slight fever. But some people have
Symptoms will generally begin 2-10 days after
being infected and usually last about 2 weeks for those with average
immune systems. In some cases the symptoms may go in cycles where you
may seem to get better for a few day, then feel worse before the
How is Cryptosporidium spread?
Crypto lives in the intestine of infected humans
or animals. Millions of Crypto can be released in a bowel movement from
an infected human or animal. You can become infected after accidentally
swallowing the parasite. Crypto may be found in soil, food, water, or
surfaces that have been contaminated with the feces from infected
humans or animals. Crypto is not spread by contact with blood.
can be spread:
- By putting something in your mouth or
accidentally swallowing something that has come in contact with the
stool of a person or animal infected with Crypto.
- By swallowing recreational water contaminated
with Crypto. Recreational water is water in swimming pools, hot tubs,
Jacuzzis, fountains, lakes, rivers, springs, ponds, or streams that can
be contaminated with sewage or feces from humans or animals.
- By eating uncooked food contaminated with
Crypto. Thoroughly wash with uncontaminated water all vegetables and
fruits you plan to eat raw. See below for information on making water
- By accidentally swallowing Cryptosporidium
picked up from surfaces (such as toys, bathroom fixtures, changing
tables, diaper pails) contaminated with stool from an infected person.
What is the treatment?
There is no effective treatment for this parasite.
If you have diarrhea, drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
Rapid loss of fluids because of diarrhea can be life-threatening
especially in babies. Parents should consult their health care provider
about fluid replacement therapy options for babies. Antidiarrheal
medicine may help slow down diarrhea, but consult with your health care
provider before taking it.
People poor health or who have a weakened immune
system are at higher risk for more severe and more prolonged illness.
For persons with AIDS, anti-retroviral therapy that improves immune
status will also decrease or eliminate symptoms of infection. Some
drugs may reduce the symptoms of Cryptosporidiosis and new drugs are
being tested. However, Crypto is usually not cured and may come back if
the immune status worsens.
There have been over 24,000 cases of Cryptosporidium infections in the
United States in three years. (The most updated information)
- 2006: 5,936
- 2007: 11,170
- 2008: 7,749
have been many notable outbreaks of Cryptosporidium in the US and
around the world.
- In 1993, a waterborne crypto outbreak occurred
in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. An estimated 403,000 people became ill,
including 4,400 people hospitalized.
- The UK's biggest outbreak occurred in Torbay in
Devon in 1995 when 575 people fell ill.
- In the summer of 1996, crypto affected
approximately 2,000 people in Cranbrook, British Columbia, Canada.
Weeks later, a separate incident occurred in Kelowna, British Columbia
where 10,000 to 15,000 people got sick.
- In April of 2001, an outbreak occurred in the
city of North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada. Between 5800 and 7100
people suffered from diarrhea illness, and 1907 cases of
cryptosporidiosis were confirmed. Equipment failures at the city's
antiquated water filtration plant following maintenance were found to
have caused the outbreak
- On September 21, 2007, a crypto outbreak
attacked the Western United States: 230 Idaho residents, with hundreds
across the Rocky Mountain area; in the Boise and Meridian areas; Utah,
1,600 illnesses; Colorado and other Western states
- Throughout the Summer of 2008; many public
swimming areas, water parks, and public pools in the Dallas/Fort Worth
Metroplex of Texas suffered an outbreak of Cryptosporidiosi
Water can be filtered to remove crypto oocysts and the cysts of another
protozoan parasite, Giardia lamblia .
Point-of-use filters may be used to treat the water for drinking or
preparing foods. Only a
with an "absolute" (not "nominal") pore size of one micron or smaller
will remove all the crypto in your families drinking water.
and go to Quality Drinking Water Home