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Cryptosporidiosis is an infection of the intestine. It can cause severe diarrhea although some may have no symptoms at all.
Most healthy adults recover from this infection in a few weeks. However, it can be life threatening for young children, the elderly, and very sick people. Cryptosporidosis can be especially difficult in those with compromised immune systems.
Cryptosporidosis is an infection caused by a parasite. The parasite enters the body by being swallowed. Once in the intestine, the parasite comes out of its shell and multiplies. You can come in contact with the parasite through:
Contaminated water (the most common way for the parasite to be transmitted):
- Accidentally swallowing water in contaminated recreational water such as a lakes, streams, hot tubs, swimming pools, or water parks
- Drinking water or ice that is contaminated
- Contact with contaminated diapers or clothing
- Contact with animal feces by touching animals, cleaning cages, or visiting barns or petting zoos
- Sexual activity that includes contact with feces
- Eating food grown in, or contaminated by, infected soil
- Drinking unpasteurized milk, dairy products, or juice
- Eating food that was handled by someone who is infected or washed in contaminated water
People who are at increased risk for cryptosporidiosis infection include:
- Young children, especially if they are in day care
- Day care workers or those who work in a group setting
- People whose immune system is weakened by cancer, AIDS, or an organ transplant
- People who engage in oral-anal sex
- Backpackers, hikers, and campers who may come into contact with contaminated water sources