Cryptosporidium infection - including symptoms, treatment and prevention
Cryptosporidium infection (cryptosporidiosis or 'crypto') is an infection of the bowel caused by the parasite Cryptosporidium which can result in gastroenteritis (also known as 'gastro').
Cryptosporidium infection is a notifiable condition1
How Cryptosporidium is spread
The Cryptosporidium parasite may be transmitted person-to-person. Infection is also spread:
directly - by drinking or swimming in contaminated water and eating uncooked food (such as fruits and vegetables) contaminated with Cryptosporidium
indirectly - when hands, objects and surfaces are contaminated with faeces of infected people or animals (cows and other domestic animals).
The parasite must be taken in by the mouth to cause infection.
Signs and symptoms
The main symptom is watery diarrhoea which occurs with stomach cramps. Fever, vomiting and loss of appetite occur less commonly. Symptoms in people with normal immune systems usually last for about 1 to 2 weeks. People with severe immune suppression, particularly those with advanced HIV infection, may have severe, prolonged diarrhoea.
The infection is diagnosed by examining a specimen of faeces under a microscope or by detecting Cryptosporidium in a faecal sample using a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test in a pathology laboratory.
(time between becoming infected and developing symptoms)
1 to 12 days with an average of 7 days.
(time during which an infected person can infect others)
As soon as the infected person develops symptoms and for up to several weeks after the disappearance of symptoms.
For those with normal immune systems, specific treatment is not required.
There is no available effective treatment for reducing diarrhoea in people with immune suppression.
The following are general recommendations for the treatment of gastroenteritis:
Give plenty of fluids. Oral rehydration solution is highly recommended for children with mild to moderate dehydration. It is available at pharmacies and should be administered following the instructions on the packaging.
Mildly unwell children should be given their usual fluids more often Carbonated (fizzy) drinks or undiluted juice should be avoided.
Medicines to prevent vomiting or diarrhoea should not be given (especially in children), except where specifically advised by a doctor.
Breastfed babies should continue to be breastfed throughout their illness.
Children on formula or solid diets should restart their normal diet (including full strength lactose containing milk) following rehydration with oral rehydration solution.
Children who are hungry or ask for food should be given small portions of their usual foods, but avoid foods high in sugar or fat.
When to seek medical advice
Seek medical advice if there are any of the following symptoms:
Signs of dehydration, such as thirst and decreased urination, lethargy, dry mouth, feeling faint on standing
severe abdominal pain
Signs of dehydration, such as thirst and decreased urination, lethargy, dry mouth, sunken eyes, feeling faint on standing
any symptoms in a child less than 12 months of age.
Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water, paying attention to the backs of your hands, wrists, between fingers and under fingernails. Always wash your hands (even if you are wearing gloves):
before and after tending to someone who has Cryptosporidium infection
before preparing, handling or eating food
after using the toilet
after changing nappies or assisting children with using the toilet
after coming into contact with animals, their faeces, or their environments.
Do not consume untreated ice or drinking water when travelling in countries where the water supply might be unsafe.
Avoid eating uncooked foods when travelling in countries with minimal water treatment and sanitation systems.
People who have diarrhoea should not use swimming pools or spa pools for 14 days after the symptoms have stopped. If you suspect someone with Cryptosporidium infection has recently used your pool or spa, see the swimming pool or spa pages on disinfection methods.
Babies and small children without diarrhoea who are not toilet trained should wear tight fitting waterproof pants or swimming nappies in swimming pools and changed regularly in the change room. When faecal accidents occur, swimming pools should be properly disinfected. See the swimming pool or spa pages on disinfection methods.
If a child in your household has Cryptosporidium infection, they should not share a bath with another child. After the infected child has been bathed, the bath should be emptied and cleaned with household bleach before refilling. Alternatively, a shower may be used rather than a bath as the risk of infection spreading through a shower is minimal.
Avoid touching farm animals, especially young calves and lambs.
Wash (with safe water) and/or peel all raw fruits and vegetables before eating.
Use of the information and data contained within this site or these pages is at your sole risk.
If you rely on the information on this site you are responsible for ensuring by independent verification its accuracy, currency or completeness.
This site includes links to other websites operated by community, business and government.
These linked websites will have their own terms and conditions of use and you should familiarise yourself with these.
All linked websites are linked 'as is' and the Government of South Australia:
does not sponsor, endorse or necessarily approve of any material on websites linked from or to this Site;
does not make any warranties or representations regarding the quality, accuracy, merchantability or fitness for purpose of any material on websites linked from or to this Site;
does not make any warranties or representations that material on other websites to which this site is linked does not infringe the intellectual property rights of any person anywhere in the world; and
does not authorise the infringement of any intellectual property rights contained in material in other websites by linking this site to those other websites.
If you use automatic language translation services in connection with this site you do so at your own risk.
The information and data on this site is subject to change without notice. The Government of South Australia may revise this disclaimer at any time by updating this posting.
The Government of South Australia, its agents, instrumentalities, officers and employees:
make no representations, express or implied, as to the accuracy of the information and data contained on this site
make no representations, express or implied, as to the accuracy or usefulness of any translation of the information on this site or any linked website into another language
make no representations as to the availability of the site and the availability of websites linked from or to the site
accept no liability however arising for any loss resulting from the use of the site and any information and data or reliance placed on it (including translated information and data)
make no representations, either expressed or implied, as to the suitability of the said information and data for any particular purpose
accepts no liability for any interference with or damage to a user's computer, software or data occurring in connection with or relating to this Site or its use or any website linked to this site
do not represent or warrant that applications or payments initiated through this site will in fact be received or made to the intended recipient. Users are advised to confirm the application or payment by other means.