In this well-known scene from Caddy Shack, panic ensues when “doodie” is found in the pool. While the movie is all in good fun, there’s actually some truth in there as well. Crypto, AKA Cryptosporidium, is a microscopic parasite that can affect both humans and animals. It lives in the intestines and is passed in the stool of an infected person or animal. The most common means of transfer – water. It is actually one of the most common causes of waterborne disease, both through recreational water such as swimming pools or lakes, and drinking water. This parasite is very resilient and has a hard outer shell which allows it to survive outside the body for long periods of time and also makes it resistant to chlorine.
Those most at risk for contracting crypto are:
- Children who attend day care centers
- Child care workers
- International travelers
- Backpackers, hikers, and campers who drink unfiltered, untreated water
- People, including swimmers, who swallow water from contaminated sources
- People who handle infected cattle
- People exposed to human feces through sexual contact
The most common symptom of crypto is watery diarrhea. Other symptoms include:
- Stomach cramps or pain
- Weight loss
If you become infected with crypto, you can expect the symptoms to appear in 2-10 days. They will usually last about 1-2 weeks and may go in cycles where you seem to get better and then feel worse before the illness ends. Most people with a healthy immune system recover without treatment. An over the counter anti-diarrheal medicine can help and it’s important to drink plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration.
Crypto is very contagious. The following steps should be taken by those infected with Crypto to avoid spreading the disease to others:
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water, especially after changing diapers, using the toilet, and before eating or preparing food.
- For at least 2 weeks after the diarrhea has stopped, do not swim in recreational water. You can contaminate water for several weeks after the symptoms have ended.
- Avoid sexual practices, such as oral-anal contact, that bring you in contact with fecal matter.
- Avoid contact with people who have a weakened immune system.
- Do not put children who have Crypto in a child care setting until the diarrhea has ended.
If you suspect you have crypto, or your symptoms are not improving, schedule an appointment at Student Health Services or with your health care provider.
In the meantime – if you see “doodie” in the pool, play out that scene in Caddy Shack and get out of the water ASAP!!
You can read more about Crypto at the CDC website:
Submitted by Tina Comston
Reviewed by Dr. Ryan Hanson