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Cryptosporidium Infection (Cryptosporidiosis)

Closeup of hands in sink with running water. Hands are covered with soap suds.
Wash your hands often to prevent spreading Cryptosporidium infection.

Cryptosporidium infection is also called cryptosporidiosis. It is an illness that affects your intestines. It is caused by the parasite Cryptosporidium. This parasite is found in the stool of infected people or animals, which can then contaminate food or water. People are often infected by contaminated water. 

Common symptoms of Cryptosporidium infection

The main symptom is watery diarrhea. This starts about 2 to 10 days after exposure. You may also have stomach cramps, nausea and vomiting, or a fever.

Diagnosing Cryptosporidium infection

A sample of your stool is checked for the parasite. More than 1 stool sample may be needed.

Treating Cryptosporidium infection

Most people get better within 1 to 2 weeks, but symptoms last longer in some people. Treatment is rarely needed, but the disease can be more serious in people with a weakened immune system. While you are recovering, drink plenty of fluids. This helps prevent dehydration. Do not take antidiarrheal medicine unless your healthcare provider instructs you to. This medicine can prevent your body from getting rid of the parasite. It can also make the illness last longer.

Call the healthcare provider

Contact your healthcare provider if you have:

  • Bloody stool

  • Severe vomiting

  • Severe belly pain

  • Signs of dehydration (dry, sticky mouth; very little urine; very dark urine)

Preventing Cryptosporidium infection

Follow these steps to lessen the chances of getting or passing on this infection:

  • Don’t swallow or drink water from pools, lakes, streams, or rivers. When traveling outside the country or camping, do not drink or cook with water unless you know it’s safe. Boil any water you use for at least 60 seconds first.

  • If you drink well water, have it tested once a year for germs. Be sure the test includes Cryptosporidium.

  • Wash your hands well with soap and warm water. Do this often. Make sure to wash before preparing meals. Wash after going to the bathroom, changing diapers, or handling pets. Teach your child to do the same.

  • Use a food thermometer when cooking. Cook poultry to at least 165°F (74°C). Cook pork and ground meats to at least 160°F (71°C). Cook beef or lamb to at least 145°F (63°C).

  • Wash fruits and vegetables well before eating them.

  • If you are infected with Cryptosporidiumtalk to your healthcare provider about special precautions to take.

© 2000-2017 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.