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HIV & AIDS Health Center

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You Can Prevent Cryptosporidiosis

What Is Cryptosporidiosis?

Cryptosporidiosis (krip-to-spo-rid-e-O-sis), often called "crypto," is a disease caused by a one-celled parasite, Cryptosporidium parvum, also known as "crypto." Crypto, which cannot be seen without a very powerful microscope, is so small that over 10,000 of them would fit on the period at the end of this sentence.

What Are the Symptoms of Crypto?

Although sometimes persons infected with crypto do not get sick, when they do get sick they can have watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, an upset stomach, or a slight fever. In some cases, persons infected with crypto can have severe diarrhea and lose weight. The first symptoms of crypto may appear 2 to 10 days after a person becomes infected.

How Does Crypto Affect You If Your Immune System Is Severely Weakened?

In people with AIDS and in others whose immune system is weakened, crypto can be serious, long-lasting, and sometimes fatal. If your CD4+ cell count is below 200, crypto is more likely to cause diarrhea and other symptoms for a long time. If your CD4+ count is above 200, your illness may not last more than 1 to 3 weeks or slightly longer. However, you could still carry the infection, which means that the crypto parasites are living in your intestines, but are not causing illness. If your CD4+ count later drops below 200, your symptoms may reappear.

How Is Crypto Spread?

You can get crypto by putting anything in your mouth that has touched the "stool" (bowel movement) of a person or animal with crypto. You can also get crypto by touching your mouth after touching the stool of infected persons or animals or touching soil or objects contaminated with stool. Drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated food can also give you crypto. Cryptosporidiosis is not spread by contact with blood.

Can Crypto Be Treated?

Yes, but no drug has been found yet to cure it. Some drugs, such as paromomycin, may reduce the symptoms of crypto, and new drugs are being tested. If you think you have crypto, or if you just have diarrhea, talk with your health care provider about testing and treatment. Diarrhea can cause dehydration. You should drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Oral rehydration powders and sports-ade drinks can also help prevent dehydration.

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