LCHD: Now is the time to think about blastomycosis
Lincoln County has had historically higher rates of fungal infection
For the Tomahawk Leader
LINCOLN COUNTY – The Lincoln County Health Department (LCHD) recently provided information about blastomycosis, an uncommon but potentially serious fungal infection.
Blastomycosis (or “blasto”) primarily affects the lungs and is caused by the fungus Blastomyces dermatitidis.
LCHD said that although the risk of getting blastomycosis is low, every year there are several individuals in Lincoln County who get blastomycosis.
“Recent trend data shows an uptick in cases starting in November and going through April,” LCHD stated. “Lincoln County has historically had higher rates of blastomycosis than other areas in Wisconsin. It is important that all residents are aware of signs and symptoms and talk to their healthcare provider right away if they think they may have blastomycosis.”
How do you get blastomycosis?
The fungus that causes blastomycosis lives in moist soil, rotting wood and leaves. These conditions are commonly found near lakes and rivers.
Blastomycosis develops when a person breathes in fungal spores. This usually happens when a person disturbs the soil in which the fungus is found through digging, hunting, gardening, excavating and brush clearing.
What are the symptoms of blastomycosis?
LCHD said illness can occur three to 15 weeks after breathing in the fungal spores.
“Most people do not get sick,” LCHD stated. “However, those who do get ill have symptoms that can mimic other lung infections and can include fever, cough, night sweats, muscle aches, joint pain, weight loss, chest pain and extreme tiredness.”
In some people, particularly those who have weakened immune systems, blastomycosis can spread from the lungs to other parts of the body, such as the skin (as lesions), bones and joints, and the brain and spinal cord, LCHD noted.
Blastomycosis is not spread from person to person.
Who gets blastomycosis?
LCHD said anyone can get blastomycosis.
“Only about 50% of the people who are exposed to the fungus will develop symptoms,” LCHD stated. “People who smoke, have lung disease or have weakened immune systems are more likely to become sick.”
People who spend a lot of time outdoors in areas with moist soil containing rotting leaves and wood may be at a higher risk, LCHD added.
“If you are having any of these symptoms, and think you may have blastomycosis, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider right away,” LCHD said. “Most people with blastomycosis will need treatment with prescription antifungal medication.”
Visit the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) website (www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/disease/blastomycosis.htm) to learn more about blastomycosis.