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Cysts, Viruses and Parasites


Cysts and viruses are microbiological contaminants, usually found in surface water supplies. Giardia lamblia cysts can cause giardiasis, a gastrointestinal disease. Cryptosporidium is a single-cell parasite measuring about 2 - 5 microns in diameter. Many surface water supplies contain this pest, which also comes from the intestine of warm blooded animals.

CRYTOSPORIDIOSIS (crip - toe - spor - id - i - o - sis)

Cryptosporidium parvum is a parasite which is known to cause disease in humans. It is spread by putting something in the mouth that has been contaminated with the stool of an infected person or animal. People swallow the Cryptosporidium parasite by drinking contaminated water or eating raw or undercooked food contaminated with Cryptosporidium oocysts (an egg-like form of the parasite that is in the infectious stage). It is too small to be seen with the naked eye.

Symptoms of watery diarrhea, headache, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, and low-grade fever may appear two to ten days after infection by the parasite. These symptoms may lead to weight loss and dehydration.

In otherwise healthy persons, these symptoms usually last 1 to 2 weeks, at which time the immune system is able to stop the infection. In persons with suppressed immune systems the infection may continue and become life-threatening. You may be tested for the cryptosporidium parasite by submitting a stool sample. No safe and effective cure is available for crytposporidiosis. People who have normal immune systems improve without taking antibiotic or antiparasitic medications. The treatment recommended for this diarrhea illness is to drink plenty of fluids and get extra rest. Physicians may prescribe medication to slow the diarrhea during recovery.

Persons at increased risk for cryptosporidiosis include child care workers; diaper-aged children who attend day-care centers; persons exposed to human feces by sexual contact; and caregivers who might come in direct contact with feces while caring for a person infected with cryptosporidiosis at home or in a medical facility.

To avoid contracting cryptosporidiosis avoid water or food that may be contaminated. Wash hands after using the toilet and before handling food. If you work in a child-care center where you change children's diapers regularly, wash hands properly, or if you use gloves, change gloves between each child. In community wide outbreaks caused by contaminated drinking water, boil drinking water for 1 minute to kill the parasite. Allow water to cool before drinking it.

42 Pearse Street, Keperra, Queensland Australia, 4054.

Phone 61 7 3855 1115