This is a fungal infection that is caused when the spores of the Histoplasma capsulatum fungus are inhaled. When the airborne spores are inhaled, it can result in lung infections. If this disease is not properly treated, it can lead to a host of other complications throughout the body including scarring of the lungs, damage to blood vessels, the spleen, and the liver. Some of these effects can be long lasting after the infection is gone.
Who’s at risk?
People with weakened immune systems such as the elderly, children, and those with chronic illnesses have a higher risk of contraction. In particular, people who deal with chronic or consistent lung issues like bronchitis are at higher risk because they have lungs that are already compromised. It is even possible for people who have had it once to contract it again, but their bodies built up some form of immunity that will reduce their risk by up to 25%. There are many instances where people inhaled the fungus and never got sick or experienced any symptoms whatsoever.
Symptoms of Histoplasmosis
As stated previously, there are those who may contract the infection, but they never show any symptoms at all. In those who do experience effects, the symptoms will develop anywhere from a couple of days to two weeks after exposure. Mild cases of histoplasmosis will resemble the flu and these people will think it is just that and never even realize that they have histoplasmosis. These mild symptoms include chills, achy joints, cough, and mild fever and they can last for several weeks.
In some instances, the symptoms do not go away and it progresses into a chronic lung infection. The symptoms associated with this type of infection are a lot more serious and they include shortness of breath, chest pain, deep cough, fever, and bloody phlegm. In the rarest of cases, the infection will spread throughout the body and cause swelling around the heart, brain, and spinal cord, high fever, and pain in the areas that are swollen. This is the point where the infection can become fatal.
How is it treated?
In order to treat it, it must first be diagnosed. Because of the mildness of the initial symptoms. It is normally not diagnosed until it has turned into the chronic lung disease. Numerous types of tests can be used for the diagnosis, like a tissue or fluid culture to see if the fungus is growing in the fluids and tissues of the body. A urine sample can be taken as well in order to test for the antibodies the body is producing to fight the infection. Also, the blood can be tested for the antibodies as well.
Once it has been diagnosed, an antifungal infection medication can be administered. The treatment can take as long as a year, depending on the severity of the infection. Doctors will also monitor the patient’s lungs to keep an eye on the damage being done to the lungs. Other medications may be necessary to treat other symptoms that may have occurred.
Where is it contracted from?
This fungus is commonly located within the droppings of bats and chickens. Other birds can carry it as well. Birds are not going to have the infection, due to their high body temperatures, so they will carry it on their bodies. People who work with or around poultry need to take the proper precautions.
It is also commonly found in bat guano because they will actually have the infection. People become most likely to contract it from bats when they decide to roost in the attic or other areas where people will frequent. Bat guano can be destructive to building materials and smell horrible. Prompt removal, exclusion, and professional clean-up are necessary to make sure that no one gets sick.