Cryptosporidiosis is an infection in the intestines.
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A certain parasite causes cryptosporidiosis. It can enter the body through food or drink that has the parasite. It can also be passed from contaminated water, soil, or stool (poop). It may be passed from:
- Water from lakes, streams, hot tubs, swimming pools, or water parks
- Ice cubes
- A baby's dirty diapers
- Touching animals, cleaning cages, or going to barns or petting zoos
- Eating food grown in soil
- Eating or drinking unpasteurized dairy products or apple cider
The infection is more common in children 2 years of age or less. Other things that raise the risk are:
- Being or working in day care or a group setting
- Conditions that weaken the immune system such as cancer, HIV, or an organ transplant
- Swimming in or drinking contaminated water
- Oral to anal contact during sex
Most people do not have symptoms. Those who do may have:
- Belly cramps
- Nausea or vomiting
- Slight fever
- Lack of hunger
- Weight loss
The doctor will ask about symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. Stool tests will be done to look for signs of infection.
In most people, the infection goes away on its own.
Treatment may be needed for those with severe and longer lasting infection. It may involve:
- Antiparasitic medicine
- IV fluids
- Medicine to control diarrhea
To lower the risk of cryptosporidiosis:
Practice proper hand washing, especially:
- After using the toilet and changing a diaper
- Before handling or eating food
- After being with animals, people who are sick, or being in soil
- Do not drink untreated water.
- Wash fruits and vegetables in safe water.
- Try not to swallow while playing or swimming in water.
- Do not eat or drink unpasteurized dairy products or apple cider.
- Use barriers when having oral sex.
- Cryptosporidiosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/cryptosporidiosis.
- Cryptosporidiosis. New York Department of Health website. Available at: https://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/cryptosporidiosis/fact_sheet.htm.
- Desai AN. Cryptosporidiosis. JAMA. 2020;323(3):288.
- Foodborne illnesses. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/foodborne-illnesses.
- Parasites—cryptosporidium (also known as crypto). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/crypto.
- David L. Horn, MD, FACP
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