Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection that is caused when people inhale the spores from the Histoplasma capsulatum fungus. This infection can cause long-term damage to the lungs (including scarring) and other organs, depending on the severity of the infection a person has.
Where does it come from?
Bats and chicken droppings are the most likely places to find the fungus. Birds have a naturally high body temperature which keeps them from being sick, but the fungus can be carried on their bodies and grow in their droppings. Bats and bat guano are the most common source for the cause of histoplasmosis in humans.
Bats normally roost within trees and caves which keeps their interaction with people at a minimum. When they make their way into attics and garages, people are going to have a heightened risk of infection. When bats decide to make their home near people, they are going to produce large amounts of guano that may contain the fungus that can make people sick.
How do people prevent transmission of histoplasmosis?
It is necessary to involve professionals in order to remove the animals. They will be able to do it in the safest way for, both, the bats and people. Once they have been removed, the guano and mess that the bats have left behind need to be cleaned up in such a way that will not allow the spores to become airborne and be inhaled.
Who can get histoplasmosis?
Anyone is able to become ill from this fungus, even if they have had it before. The young, elderly, and those with compromised immune systems always have higher risks of contracting any infection. In the case of histoplasmosis, people with chronic lung problems like bronchitis or emphysema are particularly susceptible due to their weakened lung states.
What are the symptoms of histoplasmosis?
This infection has an incubation period of between 2 and 14 days. There are many instances where people contract the infection, but symptoms never arise, and they never even know they are ill. Mild cases cause symptoms like chills, fever, achy joints, and cough and many people just think they have the flu.
Because it can resemble the flu, it is often not diagnosed until it has reached a severe level and causes a chronic lung infection. When it becomes severe like this it will cause shortness of breath, chest pain, deep cough, and bloody phlegm. It even rarer occasions, it can spread to other areas of the body like the heart, brain, and spinal cord. If these symptoms happen, the infection poses a risk of death.
How do doctors treat histoplasmosis?
It must first be diagnosed in order for doctors to treat successfully. This diagnosis is obtained through a culture of tissue or fluids from the person. It is also possible to take a urine sample because there will be traces of the antibodies for the infection in the urine.
Once the diagnosis has been confirmed, doctors can start antifungal treatment. Depending on how bad the infection is, this could last anywhere from 3 to 12 months. During this time, the doctor will also monitor the amount of damage that has been or is being done, to the lungs. If it has also spread to other areas of the body, these symptoms will need to be treated as well.