Agencies | Governor
Search Virginia.Gov
Protecting You and Your Environment Virginia Department of Health
Home | VDH Programs | Find It! A-Z Index | Newsroom | Administration | Jobs | Data
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter YouTube


rounded corner
rounded corner

What is cryptosporidiosis?
Cryptosporidiosis (pronounced: “crypto-spore-idi-osis”) is a disease caused by a microscopic, single-celled parasite called Cryptosporidium parvum.

Who can get cryptosporidiosis?

Anyone, but it may be more common in persons under two years of age, those who travel, work with animals, or those that are in close personal contact with infected individuals.  People with impaired immune systems, such as people with HIV infection or that are receiving chemotherapy are more susceptible to the disease.  Cryptosporidium parvum has also been responsible for disease outbreaks in children in daycare centers.

What are the symptoms of cryptosporidiosis?

The major symptoms are watery diarrhea and abdominal cramping. Vomiting and low-grade fever may occur. Symptoms may come and go and generally last for two weeks, but may continue for a month. However, it is possible for people to be infected with Cryptosporidium parvum and not have any symptoms of the disease.

Can cryptosporidiosis cause severe problems?

In persons who lack normal immune function, cryptosporidiosis can cause severe, life-threatening diarrhea and has been associated with liver and gall bladder disease. Persons at the greatest risk for severe problems include those having HIV infection, receiving cancer chemotherapy, or taking drugs that suppress the immune system.

How soon after exposure do symptoms occur?

After exposure, illness may occur in about two to ten days, with an average onset of symptoms of seven days.

How is cryptosporidiosis spread?

People or animals become infected by swallowing the egg-like oocysts (pronounced “oh-uh-sist”) of Cryptosporidium parvum. This happens when people consume drinking water or food contaminated with fecal matter containing the oocysts.  People can also become infected after handling objects contaminated with fecal matter, or after coming into contact with stools of people or animals that are infected.  Unwashed hands can then transfer the oocysts to the mouth, infecting the person.  Persons can also be infected by ingesting contaminated water while using recreational waters such as streams, rivers, and lakes.