Why in news?
Recently, Yet another rare fungal infection in humans made headline, this time in the United States. At least one person died and around a 100 were confirmed or suspected to be infected, all linked to the paper mill where the outbreak started in January 2023. Since then, apart from the one fatality, 12 people have been hospitalised with the disease caused by blastomyces fungus.
- Blastomycosis is a rare fungal infection usually acquired by breathing in the spores of the fungi Blastomyces dermatitidis or Blastomyces gilchristii.
- These fungi can be found in moist soils, particularly in wooded areas and along waterways. Blastomycosis occurs most often in people living in Ontario, Manitoba, and the south-central, south-eastern, and the mid-western United States.
- In addition to surveillance for cases in humans, the Minnesota Department of Health and the Board of Animal Health also track blastomycosis cases in animals.
- This allows us to more accurately outline areas in the state where the disease is found.
- More animals are affected each year than humans, and the location where the animal was exposed to the fungus is often identified more easily.
- Blastomycosis is usually caused by inhaling airborne spores from contaminated soil into the lungs. Spores are more likely to be airborne after contaminated soil is disturbed by activities such as excavation, construction, digging, or wood clearing.
- Very rarely, the fungus can infect an open skin wound and cause infection in just that area of the body.
- Blastomycosis is not spread person-to-person or animal-to-person.
Symptoms of blastomycosis may include:
- Cough, or cough with blood
- Shortness of breath
- Chills and/or night sweats
- Weight loss and poor appetite
- Joint or bone pain
- Back or chest pain
- Skin sores that don’t heal
- Many patients are first diagnosed with bacterial pneumonia because the symptoms are similar.
- Blastomycosis can be treated with anti-fungal medications, which are usually continued for at least 6 months.
- Antibiotics designed for bacteria do not work against blastomycosis.
- Specific questions about treatment should be discussed with your health care provider.