Earlier this year, in a tragic turn of events, a paper mill in Michigan was linked to an outbreak of blastomycosis, a rare fungal infection. The local health department identified almost 100 cases of the infection, with multiple hospitalizations and one loss of life. This incident serves as a reminder that, although rare, blastomycosis has a very real and dangerous impact. Let’s delve deeper into blastomycosis, its symptoms and who are most at risk, and the measures that can be taken to stay safe.
What is Blastomycosis?
Blastomycosis is a fungal infection caused by the fungus Blastomyces, which typically resides in outdoor environments, especially in moist soil and decomposing matter like wood or leaves. People develop blastomycosis after inhaling microscopic spores; however, the symptoms may not manifest immediately as the incubation period ranges from three weeks to three months.
Risks and Symptoms
The National Organization for Rare Diseases (NORD) reports farmers, campers, construction workers, and others who spend large amounts of time around disturbed soil and wooded areas have an increased risk of developing blastomycosis, although anyone who’s been in contact with the Blastomyces spores is susceptible.
Common symptoms the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) associates with blastomycosis include fever, cough, chest pain, trouble breathing, night sweats, fatigue, weight loss, and muscle or joint pain. In rare cases, the infection spreads beyond the lungs to other parts of the body, such as the skin, bones, brain, and spinal cord—potentially resulting in death. Between 1990 and 2010, over 1,000 blastomycosis-related deaths occurred. It is crucial to be aware of these symptoms and seek medical attention if you believe you may have been exposed to Blastomyces.
IRIS Environmental Laboratories: Keeping People Safe
In the wake of the recent outbreak linked to the Michigan paper mill, organizations like IRIS Environmental Laboratories play a crucial role in keeping people safe from the dangers of blastomycosis. As a leading environmental testing laboratory, we’re equipped with state-of-the-art technology and expert scientists dedicated to identifying and analyzing potential sources of Blastomyces and other harmful pathogens.
Offering comprehensive testing services, we identify any presence of Blastomyces spores and other spores in various environmental samples, ensuring accurate and reliable results. This expertise is invaluable in reducing the risk of exposure and potential infection for individuals and organizations looking to prevent or mitigate the spread of harmful pathogens.
Blastomycosis is rare, but that doesn’t mean we should be idle to its potential threat. By staying vigilant and working together, we can protect ourselves and our communities from the risks of blastomycosis and other harmful environmental elements. Seek out IRIS Environmental Laboratories’ mold inspection and testing services today and stay safe.