Cryptosporidium parvum, a protozoan parasite. Commonly water-borne. Also Cryptosporidium hominis.
Cryptosporidia are parasites that lives in the bowel. They cause a gastrointestinal illness called cryptosporidiosis.
Cryptosporidium parasites can be found in humans and in wild, pet and farm animals. Water especially untreated water in river and streams may also be a source of infection. They can survive outside the body for long periods of time.
Symptoms usually appear anytime between two to twelve days after someone has been infected with cryptosporidium, they include:
People are infectious from the onset of symptoms and usually up to 48 hours after the symptoms have resolved. Some people may be infectious for several weeks. The illness resolves itself so treatment is not usually required.
Cryptosporidiosis is spread:
- From person-to-person: usually by hand to mouth transfer of the parasite from human or animal faeces to yourself or others.
- By contaminated food & water: drinking or accidentally swallowing contaminated water, un-pasteurised milk and dairy products.
- Outbreaks may be associated with contaminated swimming pools.
Anyone who has symptoms SHOULD NOT be preparing food for others to eat until they have been free of symptoms (especially diarrhoea of vomiting) for at least 48 hours. If you are unwell you should wash your hands regularly and thoroughly using a liquid soap to stop the infection being spread to others. It is especially important:
- before and after preparing food
- before eating
- after going to the toilet or changing nappies
- after working in the garden
- after playing with animals
Any shared toilet facilities should be cleaned regularly including taps, door and flush handles and family members should not share towels or flannels.
No one with symptoms should go to work or attend school / nursery / childminder until 48 hours after symptoms have stopped. You should not go swimming until at least 2 weeks after symptoms have finished.
It is important to remember that you may excrete the organism in your faeces for a number of weeks after the symptoms have cleared. Thorough hand-washing and personal hygiene must be observed during this time.
Cryptosporidiosis is a form of Food poisoning, which should be notified on suspicion.
Post exposure prophylaxis