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Drinking Water and People with
Weakened Immune Systems
Massachusetts Water Resources Authority

 

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PAPERS AND FACT SHEETS
FACT SHEETS FROM THE CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL (CDC) :

Facts about Cryptosporidiosis

You Can Prevent Crypto: A Guide for People with an HIV Infection
Facts About Giardiasis

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), drinking water is not the primary pathway for infection by Giardia or Cryptosporidium.

However, some people may be more vulnerable to these contaminants in drinking water than the general population. Immuno-compromised persons such as persons with cancer undergoing chemotherapy, persons who have undergone organ transplants or dialysis, and people with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders can be at increased risk from these protozoa. People who are immuno-compromised should seek advice from their health care providers to make the right decisions about water consumption.

Although data are not sufficient for EPA/CDC to recommend that all severely immuno-compromised persons take extra caution with regards to their drinking water, individuals who wish to take extra measures to avoid waterborne Cryptosporidiosis can bring their drinking water to a full boil for one minute. Boiling water is the most effective way of killing Cryptosporidium.

FOR PEOPLE WITH WEAKENED IMMUNE SYSTEMS OR WITH HIV/AIDS:
EXTRA PRECAUTIONS TO AVOID CRYPTOSPORIDIOSIS & GIARDIASIS

If you are HIV positive or otherwise immuno-compromised, be extra careful about hand washing.

Carefully wash food before eating, and thoroughly cook foods which need heating before eating. Do not let raw foods contaminate other foods.
Avoid drinking or accidentally swallowing water from lakes, rivers, or swimming pools.
Follow "safe sex" guidelines. Any sex act that involves contact with the anus or feces increases the risk of cryptosporidiosis.

Drinking water that is considered safe for persons with healthy immune systems may not be healthy for those with weakened immunity. You may want to discuss the need for taking further protective measures with your medical provider.

Cryptosporidium and Giardia Test Results

If you are immuno-compromised, there is a wealth of information available to help you make the correct decision about extra precautions you may need to take.

Appropriate ways to lessen the risk of infection by Cryptosporidium and other microbial contaminants in drinking water are available from the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline (800) 426-4791 and from CDC's Fact Sheets on Cryptosporidium and Giardia.

For more information, please contact:
Joshua Das, MWRA Public Health Project Manager

Updated February 7, 2008