Blastomycosis

Blastomycosis is an infection caused by the fungus blastomyces dermatitidis.  It initially affects the lungs but can spread through the blood stream to the bone, kidneys or skin.

Where does it occur?

The fungus is found in the soil and occurs worldwide but infections are rare. In the US it is most common in the south eastern parts; cases have also been reported from the Congo, South Africa, Canada, Israel, India and Saudi Arabia.

How is it transmitted?

It is transmitted by inhaling air containing the spores of the fungus

Is it contagious from person to person?

No

What is the risk for travelers?

The risk is generally low

How soon after exposure will I develop symptoms?

Initial symptoms can develop anywhere from weeks to months after exposure, but typically within 6 weeks of exposure.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Only about half of acutely exposed individuals develop symptoms and they include fever, chills, body aches, cough, and chest pain and phlegm production.

Chronic infections of the lungs are manifested by weight loss, low grade fever, and bloody sputum. The infection spreads through the bloodstream to the skin and manifests initially as red nodules on the face and limbs which can subsequently develop crusting and ulcerations. It can also spread to the genitourinary system with infections of the prostate or scrotal area manifested by difficulties in urinating or swelling. Infections of the bones typically involve the spine and present with bone pain.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

Diagnosis is made by visualization or culturing of the fungus from body fluids.

Is there any treatment?

Antibiotics like itraconazole are effective; in severe cases amphotericin B is used.

What preventive measures can be taken?

No specific preventive measures are available

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