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What is cryptosporidiosis?

Cryptosporidiosis is a diarrheal infection caused by the parasite Cryptosporidium. The parasite is transmitted after drinking or swallowing contaminated food or water, including water swallowed while swimming. Because the parasite is protected by an outer shell that allows it to survive for long periods of time outside the body, it is very resistant to chlorine disinfection.

Where does cryptosporidiosis occur?

Cryptosporidium is prevalent throughout the world. Travelers to developing countries who visit rural areas, hike or trek in backcountry areas, or frequently eat or drink in areas where sanitation is poor are at greatest risk of contracting the disease. Outbreaks of cryptosporidiosis have also occurred in the United States when water supplies or swimming pools become contaminated.

Treatment for cryptosporidiosis:

There is no completely effective treatment for cryptosporidiosis, and persons with a healthy immune system generally recover on their own. Persons who are in poor health or those persons with a weakened immune system risk a more serious infection. Fluid replacement is important (as with any diarrheal disease) and some medications may help to alleviate diarrhea symptoms. Specific treatment for cryptosporidiosis will be determined by your physician based on:

  • your overall health and medical history
  • extent of the disease
  • your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
  • expectations for the course of the disease
  • your opinion or preference