Cryptosporidium is a protozoa or parasite which causes an infection called cryptosporidiosis. This infection commonly affects holidaymakers, especially children and the elderly. Cryptosporidium is often found in poorly maintained swimming pools and Jacuzzis on holiday. Holidaymakers can also get cryptosporidiosis directly from others by touching faeces, (for example from touching contaminated flush handles, nappies, etc.) or from drinking contaminated water.
This common holiday bug is often passed from hand to mouth, so it is always advisable to wash your hands thoroughly after visiting the toilet. Occasionally holidaymakers are infected by eating and drinking contaminated food, especially unpasteurised milk, undercooked meat and offal. Salads and fruit can also carry the parasite if they have been washed in contaminated water.
Holidaymakers often feel that they are getting better and have shaken off the infection but then suffer a relapse and feel worse before the illness eventually goes away.
As the symptoms of cryptosporidiosis are similar to many other gastric infections, the only way to be certain you have the bug is to have a stool sample tested in a laboratory.
Anyone can get cryptosporidiosis, but it is most common in young children because they spend a considerable amount of time in the swimming pool whilst on holiday. Countries with limited access to clean and chlorinated water often wash food in untreated water, leading to outbreaks of food poisoning in hotels abroad.
Holidaymakers are advised to take the following steps to reduce the risk of contracting cryptosporidium infections:
If you have diarrhoea you should not go swimming until you have been clear of diarrhoea for at least two weeks. This is because Cryptosporidiosis is highly contagious.
Holidaymakers who suffer from Cryptosporidium whilst on a package holiday can rely on section 15 of the 1992 Package Travel Regulations to claim compensation from their tour operator. The amount of compensation due is often based on the length of the illness and the medical treatment received.
Remember that holidaymakers who suffered from Cryptosporidiosis relapse, so it is advised you don’t fill out questionnaires given by some tour operators, such as Thomas Cook, until you are certain you are 100% better and have taken legal advice. These questionnaires are designed to limit the amount of compensation you’re entitled to.
Most healthy holidaymakers will recover within one month. However, there is no specific treatment for this gastric illness. The symptoms can be made better by drinking plenty of fluids, as diarrhoea or vomiting can lead to severe dehydration particularly in hot countries abroad.
When you’re ill, the parasite is highly contagious and therefore you should not to return to work without first taking advice from your GP. The Health Protection Agency advises that victims of the cryptosporidium bug can return to work or school once the diarrhoea has stopped for at least 48 hours.
Your employer should be notified if you work with vulnerable people such as the elderly, or children, or if you handle and prepare food for the general public.
Further information about Cryptosporidium and holiday swimming pool bugs is available on this website.
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