Who is most at risk for getting seriously ill with cryptosporidiosis?
Although Crypto can infect all people, some groups are more likely to develop more serious illness. Young children and pregnant women may be more susceptible to the dehydration resulting from diarrhea and should drink plenty of fluids while ill. If you have a severely weakened immune system, you are at risk for more serious disease. Your symptoms may be more severe and could lead to serious or life-threatening illness. Examples of persons with weakened immune systems include those with HIV/AIDS; cancer and transplant patients who are taking certain immunosuppressive drugs; and those with inherited diseases that affect the immune system.
What is the treatment for cryptosporidiosis?
A new drug, nitazoxanide, has been approved for treatment of diarrhea caused by Cryptosporidium in people with healthy immune systems. Consult with your health care provider for more information. Most people who have a healthy immune system will recover without treatment. The symptoms of diarrhea can be treated. If you have diarrhea, drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Rapid loss of fluids from diarrhea may be especially life threatening to babies; therefore, parents should talk to their health care provider about fluid replacement therapy options for infants. Anti-diarrheal medicine may help slow down diarrhea, but talk to your health care provider before taking it.
People who are in poor health or who have a weakened immune system are at higher risk for more severe and more prolonged illness. The effectiveness of nitazoxanide in immunosuppressed individuals is unclear. For persons with AIDS, anti-retroviral therapy that improves immune status will also decrease or eliminate symptoms of Crypto. However, even if symptoms disappear, cryptosporidiosis is usually not curable and the symptoms may return if the immune status worsens. See your health care provider to discuss anti-retroviral therapy used to improve your immune status.
How can I prevent myself from being infected?
Practice excellent hygiene, not just good hygiene. Make sure you are careful with all “at risk” items and foods. Reminder: Cryptosporidium is resistant to chlorine both in swimming pools and tap water. Avoid swimming in heavily populated areas. Make certain you use water filters and portable water filters with all water you drink and cook with. The water we intake every day is the leading cause of cryptosporidiosis. This is especially important when traveling or visiting areas with water sources you are unfamiliar with. Make sure you use water filters everywhere you go.