LCHD reminding public of risks related to blastomycosis

For the Tomahawk Leader

LINCOLN COUNTY – The Lincoln County Health Department (LCHD) is reminding the public of the risks related to blastomycosis.

LCHD said the fungus that causes blastomycosis lives in moist soil with decaying wood and leaves. Wooded areas that are close to water are prime settings for the fungus to live. Only under exact conditions of humidity, temperature and nutrition, can the fungus grow and produce spores that can be inhaled when soil is disturbed.

“With a warmer-than-usual late fall and early winter, we should be aware of the potential risk of conditions being favorable,” LCHD stated. “People most likely also spent more time outdoors during these times.”

Although the risk of getting the fungal infection is low, every year there are individuals in Lincoln County who get blastomycosis. Lincoln County is in the top five counties for the highest incidence rate of blastomycosis in Wisconsin, according to LCHD. From 2013 to 2022, 40 individuals in Lincoln County tested positive for blastomycosis, 21 of whom were hospitalized.

Photo courtesy of LCHD.

LCHD said it is important to know that blastomycosis symptoms typically do not occur until two to 15 weeks after exposure. Symptoms can mimic other respiratory illnesses, like the flu or acute bacterial pneumonia, making it difficult to diagnose.

“Usually, blastomycosis symptoms resemble those of a lung infection, but it can affect other body systems, including your skin and bones,” LCHD added.

Blastomycosis symptoms may include fever or chill, cough, shortness of breath, chest or back pain, feeling very tired and skin sores that may look crusted and growing in size.

About half of people infected will not have any symptoms, according to LCHD. People with a weakened immune system or a chronic illness are more likely to show symptoms.

“Your risk increases if you participate in outdoor activities like farming, clearing brush, construction, riding all-terrain vehicles, gardening, hiking, hunting and camping,” LCHD stated.

“Given the significant overlap with other respiratory illness symptoms, it is important for patients to follow up with their primary care provider or other provider if respiratory symptoms are not improving or worsen, and to be sure your provider is aware of activities that may increase your exposure to blastomycosis,” said Dr. Michael Clark, MD, LCHD Medical Advisor.

“If you are having these symptoms and think you may have blastomycosis, be sure to talk to your healthcare provider right away,” LCHD said. “People are usually treated with antifungal medicine. Early recognition and appropriate treatment can minimize illness. Although there are no formal recommendations to prevent blastomycosis, if you have a weakened immune system or are elderly, you may want to consider wearing a dust mask when taking part in activities in which the soil is disturbed or avoiding these activities all together.”

A “Blastomycosis: Trends in Lincoln County 2013-2022” data brief, published last year, can be found on at

For more information, contact LCHD at 715-536-0307.

More information is also available at the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) website at

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