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Cryptosporidiosis

What Is It?

Cryptosporidiosis is an infectious illness which can be food or water borne. It is recognised initially by the symptoms. These can include profuse watery diarrhoea, abdominal pain, vomiting, fever and weight loss. These symptoms can last for up to 4 weeks.

How Is It Caused?

It is caused by microscopic parasites that enter the body through the mouth, usually through contact with unwashed hands and infected food or drink.

Possible routes of the infection are: -

  • Infection from pets and farm animals
  • Eating undercooked meats. Inadequately cooked sausages, tripe, faggots and offal have all been blamed for causing this illness in the past
  • Drinking raw unpasteurised milk
  • Contact with streams, ponds and similar watercourses
  • Drinking unchlorinated water

How Is It Spread?

It can be spread from person to person, or from animals to people.

If an infected person does not wash his or her hands properly after going to the toilet their hands may be contaminated with the parasite.  They can then pass the infection on, either by direct contact with other people, or, indirectly, by preparing food that someone else then eats.

What Precautionary Measures Can I Take?

Thorough hand washing is vital: -

  • after going to the toilet
  • before preparing or serving food or drink
  • after handling pets or their food bowls
  • after handling raw meat and vegetables

You should also...

Avoid swallowing water when participating in water sports.

Ensure good personal hygiene during farm visits or contact with farm animals.

Only drink mains or treated water and make sure that the water tank in your loft is covered to stop birds getting in.

When on holiday abroad it may well be safer to use bottled water.

Always wash fruit and vegetables.

Take care when changing the nappies of infected babies.

Do not drink untreated (green top) milk.

Ensure foods are cooked thoroughly. Barbecues can be a particular problem. Sausages should be cooked until the juices run clear and there is no pink meat inside.

Keep kitchen surfaces and utensils clean. Wash chopping boards and knives used to prepare raw foods with a detergent and sanitise after use.

Don't let pets or other animals in the kitchen when preparing food. Do not wash pets' food bowls with the family dishes.

Will I Need Treatment?

Antibiotics are sometimes used in the treatment of this infection. Your doctor will be decide if you or your family would benefit from such treatment.

Do I Need To Submit Specimens?

In some cases it may be necessary to collect specimens of faeces for analysis to confirm the presence of a pathogenic organism. The results can help in determining the possible source of an infection.

Where it is felt necessary to submit a faecal sample an Environmental Health Officer will contact you. You will be given a special container and full instructions on collecting a sample. The sample will be sent to the laboratory for analysis and you will be advised of the outcome.