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Cryptosporidiosis

Cryptosporidiosis is an infectious illness which can be carried in food or water. Symptoms include watery diarrhoea, abdominal pain, vomiting, fever and weight loss. These symptoms can last for up to four weeks.

Causes

Cryptosporidiosis is caused by microscopic parasites entering the body through the mouth – usually from unwashed hands and infected food or drink. Possible routes of the infection are:

  • pets and farm animals
  • eating undercooked meats. Undercooked sausages, tripe, faggots and offal have all been blamed for causing this illness
  • drinking raw unpasteurised milk
  • contact with streams and ponds
  • drinking unchlorinated water
  • swallowing contaminated water in swimming pools

How it is spread

It can be spread from person to person or from animals to people. If an infected person does not wash his or her hands properly after going to the toilet their hands may be contaminated with the parasite. They can then pass the infection on, either by direct contact with other people or indirectly, for example by preparing food that someone else eats.

It can also be spread if a person suffering from the illness were to go swimming.  This can contaminate the water and this in turn can cause other swimmers to become ill.

Precautions

  • wash hands after going to the toilet, before preparing or serving food or drink, after handling pets or their food bowls and after handling raw meat and vegetables
  • avoid swallowing water when participating in water sports
  • drink mains or treated water. Make sure that the water tank in your loft is covered to stop birds getting in
  • drink bottled water when abroad
  • always wash fruit and vegetables
  • take care when changing the nappies of infected babies
  • do not drink unpasteurised (green top) milk
  • ensure food is cooked thoroughly
  • keep kitchen surfaces and utensils clean. Wash chopping boards and knives used to prepare raw foods with a detergent and sanitiser after use
  • when preparing food don’t let pets or other animals in the kitchen. Do not wash food bowls with the family dishes and never let them onto food preparation surfaces
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