Parasite outbreak in Clark, Champaign counties: What’s Crypto?

Health experts in Clark and Champaign counties are investigating an outbreak of 23 possible human cases of Cryptosporidiosis — also known as Crypto — that have been linked to dairy calves purchased as 4-H projects in the region.

But what is Crypto and how does it impact humans? Here are some answers to questions you may have about the disease.

» RELATED: Clark, Champaign Counties hit by outbreak linked to parasite, calves

What is Cryptosporidiosis?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Cryptosporidiosis is an infection caused by the Cryptosporidium parasite. The parasite is often found in soil, food, water and surfaces that have been contaminated with feces from infected animals or individuals. The case currently being investigated has been linked to dairy calves, but the parasite can also be picked up from more common areas, such as swimming pools and baby changing stations.

The infection typically lasts for two weeks in those with healthy immune systems and is usually non-fatal in humans, unless the person is immunocompromised, the CDC says.

What happens when you’re infected?

The disease typically affects the small intestine, but also has been known to cause respiratory problems. Infected individuals exhibit a variety of symptoms, including watery diarrhea, low-grade fever, abdominal pain and fatigue. The respiratory form of the infection causes symptoms such as coughing, shortness of breath and hypoxemia, or low blood oxygen levels.

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According to the CDC, symptoms have been known to occasionally reoccur after a brief recovery period and can come and go for up to 30 days.

How can the infection be prevented?

The Cryptosporidium parasite has been known to be difficult to fend off because of its high resistance to virus and bacteria-killing cleaners such as chlorine bleach, according to research from the National Institute of Health. However, experts say the best way to prevent infection is cleanliness, such as washing your hands after coming in contact with animals or any potentially contaminated areas. They also recommend boiling any water which could have been contaminated before using or drinking it and soaking items in a 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution.

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