When treating sick calves, avoid contact with feces. Cryptosporidiosis can be spread from calves to humans. Calves or humans in good health can usually handle exposure and not become ill. Very young calves or humans, elderly people, or anyone with a compromised immune system (with HIV or taking immune-suppressant drugs) may become seriously ill, however, according to Geof Smith, DVM, North Carolina State University.

Crypto can cause devastating illness in vulnerable people or calves, such as calves that did not receive colostrum at birth. Be careful when treating sick calves so you don’t inadvertently spread disease to a vulnerable human. Wash hands and change clothes when you come indoors, especially if you have young children or elderly adults in your home.

“Hydrogen peroxide is one disinfectant that will kill crypto oocysts. If you are working around calves with diarrhea, make sure you protect yourself, and others, from becoming infected,” says Smith.

Be careful when handling sick calves

A young beef calf suffering from diarrhea. 

“When handling/treating calves with crypto, wear exam gloves,” says David Rethorst, DMV, of Beef Health Solutions. Wash your hands afterward. Don’t grab a fresh dip of Copenhagen while you are treating calves!”

He had a client who got crypto from handling sick calves.

“That rancher ended up passing it to his 3-month-old son because he didn’t wash his hands and the ‘bug’ got carried into the house. Everyone survived, but it was a challenge getting through it. Producers need to realize there is human risk with this disease—even more than with an E. coli or Salmonella.”

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