Major surge in cryptosporidiosis across Australia and New Zealand prompts health warnings 

A summer cryptosporidiosis outbreak is gripping Australia and New Zealand with higher than usual numbers prompting public health warnings.

Cryptosporidiosis is a disease caused by the parasite, cryptosporidium, which infects the intestine and is a common cause of acute diarrhoea in young children. Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, fever, headache, and loss of appetite.

Since the start of 2024, 2928 cryptosporidiosis cases have been reported in Queensland (up to 18 March 2024). A total of 736 cases were reported in January 2024 alone – which is thirteen times higher than the numbers reported in January last year (56) and surpasses the annual totals for both 2021 (569) and 2022 (568).

New South Wales Health reported 1266 cases of cryptosporidiosis so far in 2024. This figure is nearly three times the average yearly total of 580 cases experienced annually since 2020.

In New Zealand, 262 cases were recorded from the beginning of the year to 8 March – more than three times the average of 81 cases for the same time period over the last five years – prompting reminders about the importance of good hygiene.  

Queensland chief health officer Dr John Gerrard said cryptosporidium was usually acquired through the ingestion of contaminated water or food, or through contact with infected individuals or animals.

“Drinking or accidentally swallowing water contaminated with cryptosporidium parasites is a common mode of transmission,” Dr Gerrard said. “This can occur in various settings including swimming pools, water parks, and other recreational water facilities where water may be contaminated with faecal matter.”

People with cryptosporidiosis can remain infectious for a short time after symptoms have ended.

Dr Gerrard said precautions should be followed to prevent the spread of infection.

It is advised to wash hands thoroughly for 20 seconds after going to the toilet, changing nappies, and after cleaning up animal faeces to minimise transmission of disease.

NSW Health executive director, Health Protection NSW, Dr Jeremy McAnulty said cryptosporidium was resistant to chlorine, marking infection prevention a challenge.

“The parasite survives for many days, even in chlorinated pools, and in the past very large outbreaks have been caused by people who had recently been infected going swimming,” McAnulty said.

Despite the resistant nature of the parasite, disinfection and hand hygiene remain paramount. 

There is no specific treatment for cryptosporidiosis, however it is important to stay hydrated.

Photo by Ketut Subiyanto.

Comment below to have your say on this story.

If you have a news story or tip-off, get in touch at

Sign up to INCLEAN’s newsletter.

Leave a comment:

Your email address will not be published. All fields are required