Prevention and Control - Childcare Facilities

Nursery teacher and preschoolers playing with building blocks

Cryptosporidiosis is a gastrointestinal illness caused by the parasite, Cryptosporidium (or “Crypto” for short). This parasite commonly causes diarrhea in children, especially in childcare settings. The main symptom 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. An unusual feature of cryptosporidiosis is that some people seem to get better only to have the diarrhea come back.

Symptoms can come and go for up to 30 days but usually last about 1 to 2 weeks. However, Crypto can cause severe and prolonged illness in people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or those taking drugs that suppress the immune system.

Because the parasite is in poop, anything that gets contaminated by poop can potentially spread the parasite. As a result, the parasite can be spread directly from person to person, animal to person, through contact with contaminated objects like toys, or by swallowing contaminated water (drinking and recreational) or food. Cryptosporidiosis outbreaks in childcare settings are most common during late summer/early fall (August/September) but can occur at any time of the year. Crypto is easily spread among young children who don’t know how to properly use the toilet or wash hands yet, and their caregivers (those who change diapers and help with toileting).

Good hygiene practices can help prevent cryptosporidiosis outbreaks.