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Cryptosporidium Information

Cryptosporidium Information

Cryptosporidium (also called ‘crypto’) is a parasite found in the gut of infected people and animals. It is caused by the cryptosporidium parasite and is passed on in the faeces (poos) of infected humans and animals. People become infected when they swallow the parasites.  

Crypto is spread by hands contaminated with poos during toilet use or nappy changing. From hands it can spread to surfaces, toys, food and water. It can also spread by contact with infected animals, or in shared water such as spas, swimming pools and shared baths.

The most common symptom of crypto infection is smelly, watery diarrhoea and stomach cramps. If you are experiencing these symptoms, please call your GP or HealthLine 

The best thing you and your whānau can do to stop the spread of infection is to practise good hand hygiene. This means scrubbing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying them thoroughly with a clean towel: 

  • After using the bathroom, changing a nappies, or helping others use the bathroom 
  • Before eating or cooking 
  • After handling an animal 
  • After gardening, even if you used gloves 
  • When caring for someone with diarrhoea 

Other ways to help stop the spread of crypto infection are: 

  • Stay home or keep young children home when you or they have an active case of diarrhoea 
  • Don’t drink untreated water 
  • Don’t swallow pool water
  • Wash all produce before eating it. Peeling the skins will also reduce your risk
  • Take young children at the pool to the bathroom frequently
  • Change children’s nappies often
  • Stay clear of the water if you or your children have diarrhoea. Stay out of the water for a full two weeks after the diarrhoea subsides   

What should you do if you have cryptosporidiosis? 

There are things that you should do to look after yourself and others:  

  • Ensure you drink plenty of fluids (if water, follow boil water notices). This is especially important for sick children as children become dehydrated easily
  • Do not return to work, school or preschool until free of symptoms for 48 hours  
  • Do not use swimming pools, hot tubs, or splash pads for at least 2 weeks after your symptoms stop  
  • Avoid visiting people in hospital or long-term care facilities for at least 48 hours after your symptoms stop  
  • Wash hands regularly with soap and hot water especially after visiting the toilet. Dry hands thoroughly after washing  
  • If possible, do not prepare food for anyone else until 48 hours after your symptoms stop. 
  • Disinfect toilets regularly
  • Use your own towel; do not share with anyone else
  • Bathe separately or bathe sick children after others 
  • Seek medical care through your GP or call Healthline if you have health concerns 

Please see the pdf fact sheet at the bottom of this page for more information.

How should pregnant people, older people and young children/babies be looked after if they get crypto?

The biggest health risk from cryptos is dehydration. Pregnant people, young children, and older people with cryptosporidium symptoms should keep their fluids up. The best thing you can do is drink water that has been boiled for 1 minute or bottled water.  

How should people with weakened immune systems be looked after if they get crypto?

People with weakened immune systems who have crypto symptoms should also keep their fluids up. If you are worried please contact Healthline (0800 611 116), if under specialist care, your medical provider, or your GP.  

Does hand sanitizer kill crypto?

Alcohol based hand sanitizer does not kill the cryptosporidium bug or stop the spread of the microscopic crypto cysts. Hand washing is the best way you can help stop the spread of crypto. Hands should be washed with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and dried thoroughly with a clean towel.     

How should I clean down surfaces that might be contaminated with crypto?

The best way to clean down surfaces is to use products that contain hydrogen peroxide. Chlorine and bleach based products will not kill the crypto cysts.    

Is it okay to use swimming or spa pools while I have crypto symptoms? When can I use them again?

No one who has had symptoms of crypto (diarrhoea) should enter a swimming or spa pool, until they have been symptom free for two weeks. This includes sharing bath water with others.  

The majority of crypto outbreaks associated with swimming and spa pools occur from contamination within the pool. The little cryptosporidiosis cysts can still be present, even if you don't have symptoms, and can break off and go into the water, where they can survive outside the body.  

Public health advice:

  • The most common symptom of cryptosporidium infection is smelly, watery diarrhoea and stomach cramps.
  • You can also call Healthline on 0800 611 116 for advice for managing your health.
  • Most people manage self-limiting illnesses such as gastroenteritis at home and do not seek medical care or testing.
  • The best thing you and your whānau can do to stop the spread of cryptosporidium (crypto) infection is to practise good hand hygiene. This means washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds and drying them thoroughly with a clean towel.
  • Hand sanitiser is not effective for countering crypto. 
  • If you are on a boil water notice, please plan ahead and boil water in advance if you are able to. Boil water for 1 minute and store in a clean container with a lid.