- Crypto (full name is cryptosporidiosis) is a disease caused by a microscopic parasite (a type of germ). It causes diarrhea, stomach cramps, and fever.
- You get crypto by putting anything in your mouth that has been in contact with the feces (solid waste, bowel movement) of a person or animal infected with crypto.
- You can help keep crypto out of your mouth by
- washing your hands
- practicing safer sex
- not swallowing water when you swim
- washing and cooking your food
- drinking only safe water
What is cryptosporidiosis?
Cryptosporidiosis (krip-toe-spo-rid-e-O-sis) is a disease caused by a microscopic parasite, or germ, called
Cryptosporidium parvum. Both the disease and the germ are often called "crypto".
What are the symptoms of crypto?
Most people who get crypto have watery diarrhea, stomach cramps, an upset stomach, or a slight fever. In some people, the diarrhea can be so severe that they lose weight. Other people with crypto have no symptoms.
How does crypto affect someone with AIDS or HIV?
Crypto can cause severe illness for a long time in people infected with HIV. You can die from crypto. If your CD4 (sometimes called T helper) cell count is below 200/mm3 , crypto may give you symptoms for a long time. If your CD4 cell count is above 200, your symptoms may last only 1 to 3 weeks. But even after your symptoms go away, you may still be carrying crypto. If you are carrying crypto, even without symptoms, you can give it to someone else. Also, your own symptoms may come back if your CD4 cell count later drops below 200.
How is crypto spread?
Crypto is spread in the feces (bowel movements).
Crypto is NOT spread by contact with
blood. You can get crypto by putting anything
in your mouth that has touched the feces of a
person or animal infected with crypto. You
can’t tell by looking whether something has
been in contact with feces, so you need to be
aware of what these things may be. Things likely to be contaminated with feces are
- Skin around a person’s anus (especially
important with sex partners)
- Animals (skin or fur of
farm animals and household pets)
- Cat litter boxes
- Children in diapers
- Clothing, bedding,
toilets, or bed pans used by someone with diarrhea
- Dirt (in gardens, yards, parks, etc.)
- Uncooked or unwashed food
- Water (for bathing, swimming,
Can crypto be treated?
Yes, but no drug cures it. Anti-retroviral
medicines (HIV medicines)
will decrease or get
crypto symptoms. However,
crypto is usually not cured and
may come back if the immune
system gets weaker. Some
drugs, such as paromomycin (par-o-mo-MI-sin)
may reduce the symptoms of crypto. If
you suspect you may have crypto, talk with
your health care provider. If you have diarrhea,
you might become dehydrated. Drink
plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Oral
rehydration drinks work well.
How can I protect myself from crypto?
Wash your hands.
Wash your hands often with soap and water.
Always wash your hands well after you touch
anything that might have had contact with
even the smallest amounts of human or
animal feces (see previous list). Even if you
wear gloves when you handle these things,
you should still wash your hands well when
Practice safer sex.
People with crypto may have it on their skin
in the anal and genital areas, thighs, and
buttocks. You can’t tell by looking if someone
has crypto, so you may want to protect
yourself in these ways with any sex partner:
- Avoid "rimming" (kissing or licking the
anus). Rimming is likely to spread crypto even if you and your partner
wash well before.
- Always wash your hands well with soap
and water after touching your
partner’s anus or rectal area.
Be careful around animals.
Have someone who does not have HIV
clean litter boxes or cages. If you must
do the cleaning yourself, wear disposable
gloves and wash your hands well with
soap and water after taking off the
gloves. Have any new puppy or kitten
younger than 6 months or any pet with
diarrhea tested for crypto.
- Farm animals. If you visit a farm, try to
avoid touching the animals, especially
young animals (calves and lambs). Be
sure not to directly touch the feces from
any animal. After the visit, wash your
hands well with soap and water before
you prepare food or put anything in
- Have someone who does
not have HIV clean your shoes. If you
must clean your shoes yourself, wear
disposable gloves and wash your hands
well after taking off the gloves.
Most domestic animals
(dogs, cats, birds) are safe as
household pets. However, avoid contact
with pets that may have crypto. Pets
most likely to have crypto include
- Puppies or kittens younger than 6 months
- Dogs or cats with diarrhea Stray pets
Be careful when swimming or using
Do not swallow water when you swim or use a
hot tub. Crypto may be present in fresh water,
salt water, or even swimming pool water. Protect
yourself and others- do not swim or use
public hot tubs if you have diarrhea. Crypto is
not killed by the amount of chlorine used in
swimming pools, hot tubs, and at water parks.
Wash and/or cook your food.The outsides of vegetables and fruits may have
crypto on them. Washing removes crypto from
the surface, and cooking kills crypto.
- Wash all vegetables or fruit you will eat
raw. If you can, peel fruit before eating.
- Cook food whenever possible. Cooked
food and processed or packaged foods
should be safe if, after cooking or
processing, the food is not handled by
someone with crypto.
Drink safe water.
- Do not drink water straight from lakes,
ponds, rivers, streams, or springs.
- Do not drink tap water without boiling it
if the public health department
announces that tap water may not be
safe for drinking.
- You may choose to take extra steps to
lower the risk of getting crypto from tap
water. These steps may take time and
may cost money, so you may want to
talk about these with your doctor. If you
take these extra steps, you should do so
all the time, not just at home. Also,
remember that water and ice from a
refrigerator icemaker and drinks made at
a fountain are often made with
Ways to be sure your water is safe
- Boil the water.
Boiling is the best way to kill crypto.
Heat the water at a rolling boil for
1 minute. After it cools, put it in a clean
container, seal it with a lid, and store it
in the refrigerator. Use this water for
drinking, cooking, or making ice. Clean
containers and ice
trays with soap and
water before use. Do
not touch the inside
of them after
- Distill the water.
You can also remove crypto from your
water by using a home distiller. These
devices use heat to remove crypto. Store
distilled water the same way you would
store boiled water.
- Filter the water.
Filters trap crypto from the water flowing
through them. You must replace
filter cartridges regularly and properly or
the filter will fail. Have someone who
does not have HIV change the filter
cartridges for you. If you change the
cartridge yourself, wear gloves and wash
your hands well with soap and water
when done. Filters may not remove
crypto as well as boiling does because
even good filters may let some
Not all home water filters remove crypto.
The following filters are most effective
for removing crypto:
- Filters that work by reverse osmosis
- Filters that have "absolute" 1-micron pores
- Filters that meet National Sanitation
Foundation (NSF) Standard #53.
Contact NSF for a list of "Standard
53 Cyst Filters" (address on back
Drink bottled water.
Bottled water from a protected
well or protected spring is less
likely to contain crypto than
bottled water from a river,
stream, or lake; but you
cannot be sure it is safe. Any bottled water
that has been distilled or treated by one or
more of the methods listed under "Filter the
water" should be safe.
|Drinks that ARE
||Drinks that may
NOT be safe
Carbonated (bubbly) drinks in
cans or bottles
Fruit drinks in cans or bottles
Drinks made by mixing frozen
concentrate with tap water
Steaming hot tea or coffee
Iced tea or coffee
Pasteurized dairy products
Unpasteurized dairy products or
Take extra care when traveling.
Poor water treatment and food sanitation in
developing countries may increase your risk for
getting crypto. Take the same precautions you
would at home. Avoid especially food and
drink from street vendors, uncooked foods, tap
water, and unpasteurized drinks. Talk with your
health care provider about other advice on
More Information, call:
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Child Health Insurance Program
1-877 KIDS NOW (1-877-543-7669)
CDC Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention Internet
Additional brochures in the Opportunisitic Infections
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