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Fungal Infections: The Silent Killers Among Us

We have talked about funguses in the past. They are all around us. Most of the time we live side-by-side with them without worry or complaint. However, lately, we are hearing more and more about fungal infections and other seemingly innate organisms rising up, it seems, against the human race.

This is part one of a two-part series on a rising fungal infection.

According to a brief CBS News report on April 14, 2023, "at least one person has died, and 96 others have been sickened, in an outbreak of blastomycosis at a northwest Michigan paper mill."

What is blastomycosis?

CDC illustration

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is an infection caused by a fungus called Blastomyces. The fungus lives in the environment, particularly in moist soil and in decomposing matter such as wood and leaves. In the United States, the fungus mainly lives in the midwestern, south-central, and southeastern states, particularly in areas surrounding the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys, the Great Lakes, and the Saint Lawrence River. People can get blastomycosis after breathing in the microscopic fungal spores from the air. Although most people who breathe in the spores don’t get sick, some people will develop symptoms like fever and cough, and the infection can sometimes become serious if it is not treated.

Blastomycosis, also known as Gilchrist's disease, is a fungal infection, typically of the lungs, which can spread to the brain, stomach, intestine, and skin, where it appears as crusting purplish warty plaques with a roundish bumpy edge and central depression.

CBS News reported that the outbreak at the Escanaba Billerud Paper Mill in Michigan included "21 confirmed cases, where labs have been able to spot the fungus in samples collected from people with symptoms. An additional 76 cases are considered 'probable,' with those people having shown symptoms and tested positive in an antibody or antigen test."

Symptoms of blastomycosis

According to CDC, "Fever is a common symptom of blastomycosis. Approximately half of people who are infected with the fungus Blastomyces will show symptoms. The symptoms of blastomycosis are often similar to the symptoms of other lung infections and can include:

  • Fever

  • Cough

  • Night sweats

  • Muscle aches or joint pain

  • Weight loss

  • Chest pain

  • Fatigue (extreme tiredness)

  • Skin lesions; such as raised bumps, blisters, or ulcers

How soon do the symptoms of blastomycosis appear?

Symptoms of blastomycosis usually appear between 3 weeks and 3 months after a person breathes in the fungal spores.

Severe blastomycosis

In some people, particularly those who have weakened immune systems, blastomycosis can spread from the lungs to other parts of the body, such as the skin, bones and joints, and the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord).

Because the fungus that causes blastomycosis thrives in decomposing materials like wood and leaves, it does make a certain sense that a paper mill would be a place the infection would have cropped up.

The CDC further reports that blastomycosis isn't usually contagious and doesn’t spread between people or between people and animals through the air. In extremely rare cases, blastomycosis has been spread between infected people or animals through needlestick injuries, bites, or sexual contact.

Yes, your pets may get it too, by breathing in the fungal spores.

Blastomycosis can be a HUGE issue in manufacturing plants and could be coming to YOUR city!

More information coming next time!

In part two of this series, we will talk about how this fungal infection, as well as others, can be eradicated. LastGerm products can make an incredible difference in fighting the microbial war!

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