Cryptosporidium infection (also called cryptosporidiosis) is an intestinal illness caused by the parasite Cryptosporidium. This parasite is found in food or water contaminated with stool from infected people or animals. Cryptosporidium infection is often passed in contaminated water. This most often happens when someone swallows water from a pool, lake, or stream.
Common Symptoms of Cryptosporidium Infection
The main symptom of this infection is watery diarrhea, which starts about 2-10 days after exposure. The diarrhea may be accompanied by stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting, or fever.
Diagnosing Cryptosporidium Infection
A sample of your stool is checked for the presence of Cryptosporidium. More than one stool sample may be needed.
Treating Cryptosporidium Infection
Most people with the infection get better without treatment within 4 weeks. Do not take antidiarrheal medication unless told to by a doctor. It can make the illness last longer and decrease the body’s ability to get rid of the parasite. While you are recovering, drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
Call the Doctor If You Have:
- Blood in stool
- Severe vomiting
- Severe abdominal pain
- Signs of dehydration (dry, sticky mouth; decreased urine output; very dark urine)
Preventing Cryptosporidium Infection
Follow these steps to lessen the chances of getting or passing on Cryptosporidium infection:
- Don’t swallow or drink water from pools, lakes, streams, or rivers. When camping, or traveling outside the country, avoid drinking or cooking with water unless you know it’s safe. If needed, boil water for at least 60 seconds before using it.
- If you drink well water, have it tested once a year for germs, including Cryptosporidium.
- Wash your hands with soap and warm water often. Do this before preparing meals and 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. Cook pork and ground meats to at least 160°F. Cook beef or lamb to at least 145°F.
- Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them.