Facts About Cryptosporidium (Crypto)
This information is based on the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Cryptosporidium Factsheet found here
What is Cryptosporidium and how can it affect me?
“Crypto” (krip-TOE), short for Cryptosporidium, is a germ found in the fecal matter of a person who has been infected. Crypto is microscopic and cannot be seen with the naked eye. It has a tough outer shell that allows it to survive for a long time in the environment. It can survive for days even in properly chlorinated pools.
Crypto is one of the most common causes of recreational water illness (RWI - disease caused by germs spread through pool water) in the United States. Although rarely fatal in healthy individuals, Cryptosporidiosis can be deadly for:
- Young children
- Pregnant women
- Individuals with weakened immune systems
How is Crypto spread in pools?
Cryptosporidium is spread by swallowing water that has been contaminated with fecal matter containing Crypto.
You share the water—and the germs in it—with every person who enters the pool. This means that just one person, externally carrying fecal bacteria, can easily contaminate the water. Swallowing even a small amount of pool water that has been contaminated with the Crypto germ can make you sick.
Symptoms of cryptosporidiosis include watery diarrhea, stomach pains, dehydration, weight loss and fever which could last for up to three weeks but can affect people with weak immune systems for longer. There is no specific treatment for cryptosporidiosis. Most people with a healthy immune system will recover within one month. It is important to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration.
Crypto can also be spread by swallowing contaminated water from swimming pools, water parks, splashpads, interactive fountains, water play areas, hot tubs, and even larger bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, streams, and oceans.
How do I protect myself, my family, and other swimmers from Cryptosporidium?
Because Cryptosporidium is Chlorine resistant and can stay alive for days even in well-maintained pools, prevention is essential.
The following recommendations are intended to help prevent and control cryptosporidiosis:
Three Steps for All Swimmers
- Protect others by not swimming if you are experiencing diarrhea (this is essential for children in diapers). If diagnosed with cryptosporidiosis, do not swim for at least 2 weeks after diarrhea stops.
- Don’t swallow the pool water. Avoid getting water in your mouth.
- Practice good hygiene. Shower with soap before swimming and wash your hands after using the toilet or changing diapers. Germs on your body end up in the water.
Three Steps for Parents of Young Kids
- Take your kids on bathroom breaks or check diapers often. Waiting to hear “I have to go” may mean that it’s too late.
- Change diapers in a bathroom or a diaper-changing area and not at poolside. Germs can spread in and around the pool.
- Wash your child thoroughly with soap and water before they go swimming. Invisible amounts of fecal matter can end up in the pool.
Cases of Cryptosporidiosis on the Rise
2012 has seen an increase in cases of the gastrointestinal infection, cryptosporidiosis.
Some recent (2012) Cryptosporidium outbreaks have occurred in Boise and Meridian Idaho, Dallas Texas, Glenmore Calgary, and several regions of England in Great Britain.
The largest outbreak on record in U.S. history occurred in Milwaukee in 1993 (Milwaukee Crypto Outbreak) when Cryptosporidium entered the public water supply, sickening 400,000 people and killing more than 100 with compromised immune systems.
Cryptosporidium is chlorine resistant and difficult to eliminate from water sources. The Milwaukee incident has led to increased water testing, and the use of ozone, UV, and other interventions across the nation.
DID YOU KNOW?
Chlorine can take up to 10 days to kill Crypto, while UV Disinfection inactivates Cryptosporidium instantly!
Click here to find out more.
According to an EID Journal study published in early 2011, there are estimated to be nearly 750,000 Crypto infections in the United States each year.
During the past two decades, Crypto has become recognized as one of the most common causes of waterborne illness in the United States. The germ is found in every part of the United States and the world.
Center for Disease Control (CDC) - June 2008
In 2003-2004 Giardia sp. and Cryptosporidium spp. were responsible for 61.2% of gastroenteritis outbreaks associated with treated swimming pool venues
(e.g. swimming pool, water parks) in the United States. Cryptosporidium's key role in these outbreaks is likely because of its small size, low infectious
dose and high tolerance to chlorine. Cryptosporidium spp. and Giardia intestinalis have been found in swimming pool filter backwash during
outbreaks. To determine baseline prevalence, the CDC sampled pools not associated with outbreaks and found that out of 160 sampled pools, 13 (8.1%)
were positive for one or both parasites; 10 (6.2%) for Giardia sp., 2 (1.2%) for Cryptosporidium spp. and 1 (0.6%) for both.
-Reference; CDC volume 14, number 6 - June 2008
CLICK HERE for Full Study