Cryptosporidiosis

What is cryptosporidiosis? 
Cryptosporidiosis is a diarrheal illness caused by a microscopic parasite called Cryptosporidium. The parasite lives in the intestines of an infected animal or person and is passed into the environment in their feces (stool) where it is able to survive outside the body for many months in moist conditions. An outside shell protects the parasite, making it difficult to kill with chlorine.
How is cryptosporidiosis spread?  
People are usually infected with Cryptosporidium by swallowing drinking water or recreational water that has been contaminated with human or animal feces containing the parasite. Food can be contaminated if it comes in contact with the parasite in water or on dirty hands. The infection can also be spread by contact with contaminated feces during sex with an infected person.  
What are the symptoms of cryptosporidiosis?  
Symptoms usually start within 1 to 12 days after a person eats food or drinks water contaminated with the parasite. Cryptosporidium can cause large amounts of watery diarrhea, abdominal cramping, and less often, upset stomach, vomiting, lack of appetite, fever, and decreased energy.
Is there treatment for cryptosporidiosis?  
There is no specific treatment available except replacement of fluids when needed.  Healthy people are able to clear the parasite from their body within 1-2 weeks without any medical help. However, those with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV or cancer, may be unable to clear the parasite and continue to have chronic and often severe symptoms, which may lead to life threatening illness. People with severe symptoms, or symptoms that last a long time, should seek care from their health care provider.  
Are there any restrictions or special considerations for people ill with cryptosporidiosis
Anyone who is ill with cryptosporidiosis should stay at home while they are having symptoms. People whose work involves preparing or handling food, providing childcare or healthcare, and children who attend daycare, should remain at home until the diarrhea has stopped for at least 24 hours. Anyone infected with cryptosporidiosis should not use recreational water venues such as swimming pools and splash pads for 2 weeks after symptoms resolve.
How can I protect myself against cryptosporidiosis?  
To prevent becoming ill:
  • Avoid local water when travelling to countries where the water supply is uncertain; use only sealed bottled water or treated (chemically disinfected or boiled) water for drinking, brushing teeth, preparing foods, making ice and cooking
  • Beware of raw foods washed in local water when travelling; eat only cooked food and fruit that can be peeled after it has been washed with water from a safe source
  • Avoid swallowing water when swimming and do not drink untreated lake or river water
  • Wash raw fruits and vegetables well with clean running water before eating, including berries and fresh herbs
  • Always wash hands well with soap and water for at least 15 seconds before and after preparing food, before eating, after using the toilet, after changing diapers, after handling pets or their feces, and anytime hands may be dirty
  • Avoid contact with feces (stool) during sexual activity 
What is Ottawa Public Health's role?
Ottawa Public Health (OPH) must be notified by health care providers and laboratories when a person is infected with cryptosporidiosis. OPH conducts an investigation to potentially determine the cause or source of the infection, provide education to the infected person and their close contacts, and follows up with the infected person's health care provider, as needed.

For further information, call Ottawa Public Health at 613-580-6744, or visit OttawaPublicHealth.ca

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