Cryptosporidiosis

(Crypto)

Definition

Cryptosporidiosis is a parasitic infection of the intestine. It can cause severe diarrhea although some may have no symptoms at all. Most healthy adults recover from this infection in a few weeks. However, it can be life threatening for young children, the elderly, and very sick people. Cryptosporidosis can be especially difficult in those with compromised immune systems.
The Intestines
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Causes

Cryptosporidosis is an infection caused by a parasite. The parasite enters the body by being swallowed. Once in the intestine, the parasite comes out of its shell and multiplies. You can come in contact with the parasite through:
  • Contaminated water (the most common way for the parasite to be transmitted):
    • Accidentally swallowing water in contaminated recreational water such as a lakes, streams, hot tubs, swimming pools, or water parks
    • Drinking water or ice that is contaminated
  • Contact with contaminated diapers or clothing
  • Contact with contaminated animal feces by touching animals, cleaning cages, or visiting barns or petting zoos
  • Sexual activity that includes contact with contaminated feces
  • Eating food grown in, or contaminated by, infected soil
  • Drinking contaminated unpasteurized milk, dairy products, or juice
  • Eating food that was handled by someone who is infected or washed in contaminated water

Risk Factors

People who are at increased risk for cryptosporidiosis infection include:
  • Young children, especially if they are in day care
  • Day care workers or those who work in a group setting
  • People whose immune system is weakened by cancer, AIDS , or an organ transplant
  • People who engage in oral-anal sex
  • Backpackers, hikers, and campers who may come into contact with contaminated water sources

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