What is Cryptosporidium?
Cryptosporidium is a diarrheal disease caused by microscopic parasites. Once an animal or person is infected, the parasite lives in the intestine and passes in the stool. 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-based disinfectants.
How is Cryptosporidium spread?
- Cryptosporidium lives in the intestine of infected humans or animals.
- Cryptosporidium is found in soil, food, water, or surfaces that have been contaminated with infected human or animal feces.
- A person becomes infected by ingesting the Cryptosporidium parasites.
- By eating uncooked food contaminated with Crypto.
- By touching your mouth with your hands after coming in contact with contaminated surfaces such as bathroom surfaces, toys, or changing tables.
- Persons with Cryptosporidium can easily spread the infection for several weeks after symptoms have ended, so good hygiene should be practiced.
What are the symptoms of Cryptosporidium?
Symptoms of Cryptosporidium begin 2 to 10 days after becoming infected and usually last 1 to 2 weeks; some people will not have any symptoms at all. Symptoms include:
- Watery Diarrhea
- Stomach cramps or pain
- Weight loss
How is a Cryptosporidium diagnosed and treated?
Cryptosporidium can be diagnosed by testing a stool sample.
- Most people who have healthy immune systems will recover without treatment.
- Diarrhea can be managed by drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
- Young children and pregnant women may be more susceptible to dehydration.
- Anti-diarrheal medicine may help slow down diarrhea
- People who are in poor health or who have a weakened immune system are at higher risk for more severe and more prolonged illness.
How can I protect myself from Cryptosporidium?
- Wash hands thoroughly and frequently with soap and water especially after using the bathrooms, before handling or eating food, and after every diaper change (even if gloves are worn).
- Do not swallow recreational water at places like community pools and water parks.
- Do not drink untreated water from shallow wells, lakes, rivers, ponds, and streams.
- Take extra care when traveling since some countries do not practice proper food or water sanitation.
IMPORTANT: Knox County Health Department is required to restrict the activities of persons with Cryptosporidium infection in certain settings. Food handlers, child care workers, children attending child care and healthcare workers with direct patient care should not perform these activities until they have been treated, are no longer ill and have been cleared by their local public health department. Contact the Knox County Health Department Epidemiology Department with any questions at (865) 215-5093.
The chart below shows the number of cases of Cryptosporidium in Knox County in recent years. In 2007, an unusually high number of cases were reported; several of those cases were traced to water at splash pads in county parks, so the Knox County Health Department began treating the splash pads. The figures for 2008 reflected a significant improvement over the prior year, thanks to the prevention efforts at the splash pads. Figures rose again in 2009, although not to the 2007 level.
Here are some numbers on Crypto:
|Less than 18yr
|Older than 18yr
Children’s Hospital’s Healthy Kids program offers regular classes on CPR certification. For more information or to sign up for classes, call the Children’s Hospital Community Relations Office at (865) 541-8165.