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Cysts.... Real Pests in Our Drinking Water
Cryptosporidium, Giardia Lambia ("Beaver Fever")

This organic sporozoan, first described in 1907, wasn't recognized as a cause of human illness until 1976. It is a protozoan parasite that can infect a variety of animals. In the environment, Cryptosporidium exists as a resilient, infectious, round oocyst about four to six microns in diameter. The cyst is a "suitcase" for the infectious material inside.

Cryptosporidium is widespread in the environment. Oocysts (cysts) have been found in rivers, streams, lakes, reservoirs, sewage, and treated surface water. Once introduced to water, the oocyst can survive for weeks, even at low temperatures. The organism has been found in humans, cattle, sheep, swine, goats, cats, and dogs as well as deer, raccoons, foxes, coyotes, beavers, muskrats, rabbits, and squirrels. Oocysts infecting certain species can infect another (referred to as cross-transmission). For example, organisms from domestic animals (cattle, dogs, eats, etc.) are able to infect humans, Conversely, organisms from humans can infect animals. Consequently, animals which typically reside in or around watersheds may serve as hosts to the cysts and continuous sources of infection. This is where the nick name "Beaver Fever" was born. Beavers carry the organisms and through their feces spread it throughout surface water supplies without becoming ill themselves. Moreover, infection can occur not only from drinking contaminated water, but also from eating contaminated food and from exposure to fecally contaminated environmental surfaces.

When ingested, the Oocysts pass through the stomach into the small intestine. There the Oocysts split open, releasing sporozoites which invade the cells lining the gastrointestinal tract. Infected cells lining the intestine appear normal, but their ability to absorb water and nutrients is severely impaired. The water and food ingested simply passes through the digestive system. Additional Oocysts are formed in the intestine and either split open to release additional sporozoites to continue the infection or are excreted in the feces.

The Cryptosporidium infection causes an illness called cryptosporidiosis. After the Oocysts are ingested, the incubation period typically varies from 2 to 12 days with an average of seven days. Disease symptoms include diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, occasional vomiting and low-grade fever.

The number of Oocysts that must be ingested to cause infection in humans is not conclusively known. Studies indicate that as few as 10, and perhaps as many as 500 Oocysts are required to initiate infections in mammals. The infectious dose for humans is thought to be fewer than ten.

Cryptosporidiosis typically lasts 10 to 14 days. However, it may linger off and on for up to 30 days and infrequently can persist for extended periods. Children may be the most susceptible, particularly six-year- olds and under. A rapid cure for Cryptosporidiosis has not been found. Recovery depends on the patient's overall health and immune system. The disease can be fatal for those who are already in a fragile state such as someone with AIDS or any other weakness to their immune system.

There are two varieties of the oocyst: (1) a sphere of about 4.5 micron in diameter
and (2) an ellipse of about 7 x 5 microns. The thick walls of the Oocysts make it difficult, almost impractical, to kill with the UV systems in most domestic water treatment systems. Also, the cyst is much more difficult to kill using chlorine than normal coliform bacteria found in water supplies.

Since filter elements are manufactured so that they remove pathogenic bacteria down to one micron in size; they are 100% effective in the removal of Cryptosporidium.

Cryptosporidium Fact Sheet

What is Cryptosporidium?

Cryptosporidium is a one-celled parasite that can cause a gastrointestinal illness called cryptosporidosis.

Where does it come from?

Cryptosporidium occurs in the feces of infected animals or humans. It is environmentally resistant and may survive outside the body for long periods of time. To become infected, a person must consume contaminated food or water.

What are the symptoms of cryptosporidosis?

Diarrhea, abdominal cramps, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and a low-grade fever.
These symptoms can last for weeks and may lead to weight loss and dehydration.
Symptoms are more severe for people with weakened immune systems and can lead to death.

Who are people with weakened immune systems?

Those on chemotherapy, organ or bone marrow recipients, persons with HIV or AIDS, malnourished children, the very young and the very old.

When do symptoms appear?

From 2 to 12 days after ingestion. The average is seven days.

How is it spread?

A person can be infected by consuming contaminated water or food. Direct or hand-to-mouth transfer of the bacteria from feces or contaminated surfaces can also cause infection.

What is the treatment for cryptosporidosis?

If you think you have cryptosporidosis, see a health care provider, especially if you have a weakened immune system. There is no cure for the disease. However, the symptoms may be treated with antidiarrheal drugs.

Who is at risk?

Anyone who consumes contaminated food or water, child care workers, young children who attend child care centers, persons exposed to human feces by sexual contact, and caregivers who might come in contact with feces while caring for a person infected with cryptosporidosis. Children are especially susceptible because they put so many things into their mouths.

How common is cryptosporidosis in Washington?

Cryptosporidosis is not a reportable illness in Washington. Originally considered a parasite of animals, reptiles and birds, it first was detected as a source of illness for humans in 1976. Health officials now believe Cryptosporidium has been causing human illnesses for a long time, but it was overlooked due to difficulties in testing and diagnosis.

How can I ensure my water is safe to drink?

Pay attention to health advisories and boil water notices. To ensure your drinking water is safe during boil water notices, always boil, filter, or use bottled water:

What else can I do to avoid cryptosporidosis?

The single, most effective way to avoid illness is to wash your hands often with soap and water. During boil water advisories, use water that has been boiled and cooled, filtered, or safely bottled for washing dishes, fruits, and vegetables.

  • Always wash your hands before handling food and dishes and after using the toilet, gardening, changing diapers, or handling pets.

  • Wash fruits and vegetables with safe water, especially if you plan to eat them raw. You can also peel fruit that you will not cook.

  • Never cook for other people if you have diarrhea.

  • Avoid unpastuerized milk and dairy products. Cooking kills Cryptosporidium and other germs.

  • Don't swallow any water from lakes, rivers, pools, or jacuzzis. Water swallowed accidentally while swimming may contain the organism.

  • Take care when traveling in developing countries. Foods and drinks, in particular raw fruits and vegetables, tap water or ice made from tap water, unpasteurized milk or dairy products, and items from street vendors may be contaminated with Cryptosporidium. Talk to your health care provider about other precautions you may want to take when traveling abroad.


Are these recommendations sufficient for people with weak immune systems?

For most people, yes. However, persons with AIDS should use disposable gloves or have someone else who is not HIV positive change the cartridges on their water filter. The same precautions should be taken with cat litter boxes.

Where can I get more information?

For more information, call Communicable Disease Epidemiology (360) 361-2914.




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Did You Know?

Each year 1.2 trillion gallons of untreated sewage, storm water, and industrial waste are dumped into US water.  - "How Infastructure Makes Water Work for Us."  In Urban Green: Architecture for the Future.
Approximately 40% of the lakes in America are too polluted for fishing, aquatic life, or swimming.  - "Nonpoint Source Pollution: The Nation's Largest Water Quality Problem." Environmental Protection Agency. Accessed February 18, 2014
14 billion pounds of garbage are dumped into the ocean every year.   "Marine Debris." - California Coastal Commission. 2014
According to Environment America, 226 million lbs. of toxic chemicals were dumped into 1,400 waterways of the United States in 2010 alone.




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Statements about water pollution, Waterboy water filters, Kangen water machines, Wholly Water filter, The Vitalizer Plus, the P250 Ozone generator, etc. have not been reviewed by the FDA.