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Cryptosporidiosis (Crypto) is a gastrointestinal illness, caused by the parasite, Cryptosporidium. This disease is a common cause of diarrhea in children, especially in child care settings. The hallmark symptom of Crypto is watery diarrhea, which might be accompanied by stomach ache, nausea and vomiting, fever, and a general sick feeling. Healthy people infected with the parasite almost always get better without any treatment but treatment is available by prescription. An unusual feature of cryptosporidiosis is that some people seem to get better only to have the diarrhea come back in a few days. Symptoms can come and go for up to 30 days, but usually subside in 1 to 2 weeks. However, Crypto can cause severe and prolonged disease in persons with weakened immune systems, such as those with AIDS or those taking drugs that suppress the immune system.

Because the parasite is in feces, anything that gets contaminated by feces can potentially spread the parasite. As a result, the parasite can be spread directly from person-to-person, through contact with contaminated objects (e.g., toys), or by swallowing contaminated food or water (drinking and recreational) or food. Crypto outbreaks in child care settings are most common during late summer/early fall (August/September) but might occur at any time. The spread of cryptosporidiosis is highest among young children who are not toilet trained and their caregivers (those who change diapers).

Good hygiene practices can help prevent cryptosporidiosis outbreaks.

 
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  • Page last reviewed: July 16, 2012
  • Page last updated: July 16, 2012
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