Water and Food poison: Cryptosporidiosis

By Gary Newland

Cryptosporidiosis is a disease caused by parasites that causes diarrhea and other symptoms.  Both the disease and the parasite are often known as Cryptosporidiosis.  The parasite is microscopic and exists to infect humans and other animals.  The Crypto parasite is protected by a shell that allows it to live outside of the body for long periods of time and makes it resistant to chlorine. The parasite can be transmitted in many different ways although water is a common method of transmission of cryptosporidium.  Crypto can exist in drinking water as well as recreational water.

The parasite lives in the intestines of humans and animals and is often passed through the stool of an infected person or animal.  During the past 20 years or so, the parasite has become recognized as one of the most common causes of water borne diseases in humans in the United States.  It can actually live in every region of the United States.

In an infected person or animal the crypto parasite shed the crypto in the stool of the host and millions of crypto parasites can be released in 1 bowel movement of an infected human or animal.  The symptoms can last for weeks and the most common symptom is diarrhea.  It has been known to infect humans and spread in the following way:

  1. By swallowing recreational water used in swimming pools, hot tubs,  Jacuzzis, fountains, lakes, rivers, springs etc.
  2. By putting something in your mouth that has come into contact with the stool of a person.
  3. Wwallowing contaminated water or beverages that have been infected by human or animal stool.
  4. Uncooked food containing crypto.  It is necessary to thoroughly wash vegetables and fruits to avoid crypto.
  5. By touching contaminated hands or mouth.
  6. Toys, bathroom fixtures, changing tables, diaper pails to have contaminated stool from the infected person.
  7. It can also be transferred through sexual contact.

The symptoms are not limited to diarrhea.  They include severe cramping, dehydration, nausea, vomiting, fever and weight loss.  The crypto generally infects the small intestines but it can also infect other areas of the digestive tract as well as the respiratory tract.  Generally symptoms appear from cryptosporidiosis within 2-10 days after becoming infected with the parasite.

Children who attend daycare centers, especially diaper age children are more susceptible to this disease although so are child care workers as well as parents.  There have been several communitywide outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis that have been linked to drinking municipal water or recreational water contaminated with the cryptosporidium.  Young children and those with weakened immune systems can suffer serious or life threatening illnesses as a result.

Cryptosporidiosis can be diagnosed with a stool sample although keep in mind that most laboratories do not conduct a test for crypto and therefore if you believe you may be suffering from crypto you should specifically ask your healthcare provider to run a crypto analysis.

In terms of treatment, NITAZOXANIDE has been an approved FDA treatment for the diarrhea that is caused by cryptosporidium with those that have healthy immune systems.  Nitazoxanide is only available by prescription.  If you have a healthy immune system then you should be able to recover without treatment by drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.  Pregnant women should seek immediate care from their physicians.  If you have the condition you should and must  wash your hands frequently with soap and water especially before and after using the toilet, changing diapers, or eating or preparing food.  Do not swim in water if you know that water to be infected with cryptosporidiosis and do not engage in sexual contact that might result in oral exposure to stool.  Consciously stay away from those that have weakened immune systems and childcare settings.

If you have any questions regarding   Cryptosporidiosis, please feel free to contact Gary Newland, Esq. at Newland & Newland, LLP.

  • Newland & Newland LLP, Attorneys, Arlington Heights, IL
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