HISTOPLASMOSIS

  • An infection caused by breathing in spores of a fungus often found in bird and bat droppings.
    • Most commonly transmitted when these spores become airborne, often during cleanup or demolition projects.
  • Soil contaminated by bird or bat droppings also can transmit histoplasmosis, so farmers and landscapers are at a higher risk of contracting the disease.
  • Most people with histoplasmosis never develop symptoms and aren’t aware they’re infected. But for some people — primarily infants and those with compromised immune systems — histoplasmosis can be serious. Effective treatments are available for even the most severe forms of histoplasmosis.
  • The disease is caused by the reproductive cells (spores) of the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum.
    • The spores are extremely light and float into the air when dirt or other contaminated material is disturbed.
    • Recurrent infection is possible but illness may be milder than initial infection.
  • The histoplasmosis fungus thrives in damp soil that’s rich in organic material, especially the droppings from birds and bats. For that reason, it’s particularly common in chicken and pigeon coops, old barns, caves and parks. Histoplasmosis isn’t contagious, so it can’t be spread from person to person.

Several types of histoplasmosis exist. The mildest form produces no signs or symptoms, but severe infections can be life-threatening. When signs and symptoms do occur, they usually appear three to 17 days after exposure and may include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Dry cough
  • Chest discomfort

In some people, histoplasmosis can also produce joint pain and a rash. People who have an underlying lung disease, such as emphysema, may develop a chronic form of histoplasmosis.

Symptoms of chronic histoplasmosis may include weight loss and a cough that brings up blood. The symptoms of chronic histoplasmosis sometimes can mimic those of tuberculosis.

Severe histoplasmosis (a.k.a disseminated histoplasmosis)

  • Occurs primarily in infants and in people with compromised immune systems.
    • Can affect any part of the body
    • If left untreated, usually fatal

DIAGNOSIS

  • Physician may do/request:
    • History & Physical Exam
  • Other additional tests such as:
    • Lung biopsy
    • Blood tests
    • Urinalysis
    • Sputum Exam
    • Bone marrow aspirate test

 

RECOMMENDED MEDICATIONS

  • For mild cases: usually no treatment
  • For severe or chronic cases:
    • Antifungal drugs (Oral or IV administration)

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