Cryptosporidium is a diarrheal disease caused by the crypto parasite. This single-cell organism is found in all areas of this country and around the globe. It exists in soil, food, and water. You can get infected by swallowing uncooked food or water that contains the parasite. Once inside your body, crypto lives in your intestine. The parasite’s ability to survive outside the body for hours makes it possible to become infected by touching contaminated surfaces that have been exposed to the feces of infected people or animals.
The crypto parasite also has an outer shell that protects it from the disinfecting qualities of chlorine bleach and other types of water purification. All these factors make crypto one of the most common causes of waterborne disease in the country.
Work-Related Illness in California
People often think of workers’ compensation as something that pays you when you have a physical injury. It also covers work-related illnesses that arise from a physical injury or are due to a single or repeated exposure to toxins or poor work conditions. For example, an employee might become depressed because of the impact of a physical injury. Depression can also occur from harassment by the boss or co-workers.
Cryptosporidium is a type of illness that becomes work-related when you become infected at work. Some people never show any symptoms while those with a suppressed immune system are more likely to get infected and have the most severe symptoms. In addition to the characteristic diarrhea, a person with a normal immune system might experience any of the following symptoms:
- Loss of Appetite
- Stomach Cramps and/or Pain
- Weight Loss
Symptoms vary and can last anywhere from a day or two to as long as a month. They may be persistent or occur sporadically. Even if your symptoms are mild, it is important not to return to work until at least 48 hours have passed without having diarrhea. Otherwise, you are at risk of passing crypto to others. When the crypto parasite passes out of your body, your symptoms should end.
Who Is at Risk for Cryptosporidium?
Almost anyone has the potential to become infected with crypto, but some people are at a greater risk than others. Sometimes reports of cryptosporidium spores in the water lead public water suppliers to issue boil water advisories. This means that any water you consume at home, work, or in any public setting puts you at risk.
During a boil water advisory, boil all of the water you use in cooking, to brush your teeth, to make mixed drinks, or to rinse raw foods. Only drink commercially bottled water or tap water that has been at a rolling boil for a minimum of one to three minutes. Also, discard ice from trays that was frozen prior to the advisory.
While contamination of the public water supply affects an entire community, many others are at a greater risk of getting infected because of their jobs. Some examples include:
– Childcare Providers –If you take care of children, especially those who are diaper-aged, be stringent about limiting your exposure. Always wash your hands after changing diapers and frequently in-between. Remember that surfaces contaminated with infected feces are just as dangerous as a dirty diaper. Since disinfectants aren’t especially effective against crypto, the best approach to preventing an infection is to make sure the parasite doesn’t find its way into your mouth. Hand washing is considered the most effective method of preventing the spread of the crypto parasite.
– Food Handlers –The parasite is sometimes in raw vegetables and fruits or unpasteurized milk. Avoid drinking raw milk and cider and always wash raw fruits and vegetables before eating or preparing.
– Livestock Workers
People who work with livestock frequently handle the animals and put themselves at risk for infection. The crypto parasite can remain in the environment for long periods, increasing livestock workers’ potential for infection. However, the transmission from cattle to humans often occurs through the contamination of a well or recreational water source. If you work for a company that handles cattle, you can get crypto by drinking from a contaminated well or from direct contact with the animals. Again, personal hygiene is the best prevention.
– Maintenance Workers
The people who clean up in high-risk areas such as healthcare facilities or daycare centers are also more likely to come into contact with the parasite. Wearing rubber gloves while cleaning places a protective barrier between you and the parasite.
– Zoo Employees
Like cattle, many wild animals are prone to cryptosporidium infection. Anyone who works directly with the animals or in their habitats should take preventive measures to reduce their risks. That also includes animals in petting zoos.
– Laboratory Researchers
Although these workers are more aware of the risks, working directly with the crypto parasite in their research puts lab workers at a higher risk of infection.
– Lifeguards at Public Swimming Facilities
Public swimming pools are another common source of crypto. Lifeguards who spend many more hours in the pool than those there for recreational purposes are more likely to get infected.
– Healthcare Workers
Working with patients of any age exposes medical professionals to a variety of viruses and parasites. This includes the crypto parasite. Healthcare workers should always follow universal precautions any time they provide patients with care. This means assuming the patient is infected and taking steps to prevent transmission of any pathogen.
Preventing a Crypto Parasite Infection
We’ve all heard the advice to wash your hands often to prevent the spread of colds and flu. But washing your hands can also help prevent a crypto infection. Pertinent times include after using the bathroom, changing diapers, handling animals, and prior to eating or handling food.
If you work with children, make sure they wash their hands, too. This is especially important for any child with diarrhea who may be infected with the parasite. Never ignore a boil water advisory. The threat is a very real one that is becoming increasingly common across the country.
If you become infected with the crypto parasite at your workplace, you will need time off from work and the appropriate medical treatment. Talk with a San Diego workers’ compensation lawyer right away. Proving the infection occurred at your workplace will be the first challenge you face.
Contact our work injury lawyers at the The House of Workers’ Comp to schedule a free consultation. Let an experienced law firm that represents injured workers help you defend your rights.