Somewhere between getting my daughter in her clothing and pouring cereal for my son this morning I heard the word “cryptosporidium” come out of the news anchor’s mouth. It made me stop and tune in.
I took a parasitology class in grad school and I loved every minute of it because parasites are SO interesting. Cryptosporidium (crypto) is a parasite that can wreak havoc on your digestive system for weeks, and apparently outbreaks are on the rise in swimming pools across the country.
Crypto is a parasite that can survive in damp environments for 2-6 months before it needs to find a host to live in. It can be ingested by and then live in any mammal and cause mild to severe (even fatal) watery diarrhea–the disease cryptosporidiosis. Crypto’s lifecycle completes when the animal passes it in its feces so it can infect the next host.
Okay, pause. Back when I took this class the professor termed crytpo the “camping disease” because those infected had often bathed in or drank infected water in the wilderness. The professor made it a point to blame the raccoons. I remember that well. But, it’s not shocking to hear about crypto in the news this swimming season, because it’s really more common than we realize.