Histoplasmosis (caused from bat and bird droppings)
Histoplasmosis is an infection that occurs from breathing in the spores of the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum. The fungus lives in the environment, usually in association with large amounts of bird or bat droppings. Lung infection can occur after a person inhales airborne, microscopic fungal spores from the environment; however, many people who inhale the spores do not get sick. The symptoms of histoplasmosis are similar to pneumonia, and the infection can sometimes become serious if it is not treated. (http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/histoplasmosis/).
This can be very serious and it seems to be getting more prevalent. In our neighborhood of five houses two people have it, including my husband, and are being treated for it, another person is scheduled to be tested. Working with the soil, such as gardening, landscaping, just cleaning your yard can subject you to breathe in these spores. Bat and bird droppings are everywhere and this is how the disease is transmitted, by breathing in the spores from the droppings. If you have bats or birds around wear masks to protect yourself when working out in the yard, or walking by a river or wherever a large amount of birds, bats, or any type of birds would be.
Signs and Symptoms
Most people with histoplasmosis have no symptoms or very mild ones. Signs and symptoms that happen in rare cases include the following:
- Sudden, flu-like infection — includes fever, chills, cough, chest pain, and headache
- Long-term lung infection — develops slowly over weeks to months and produces a cough that gets worse, weight loss, night sweats, and sometimes shortness of breath
- Trouble breathing — this can happen to people who breathe in very large amounts of the fungus. It is sometimes called “spelunker’s lung” because it can happen after exploring caves.
When the disease spreads throughout the body, it affects many organ systems. A person may have the following symptoms:
- Meningitis (inflammation of the membranes of the brain and spinal cord)
- Ulcers in the mouth
- Infection of heart valves
- Enlarged liver and spleen
- Swollen lymph nodes
Many people living in mild climates can become infected with histoplasmosis. Those most at risk of becoming infected include:
- Farmers and poultry farmers
- Construction workers
- Spelunkers (cave explorers)
- Geologists and archeologists
- Landscapers and gardeners
- People who have contact with bats
Those at risk of severe infection include:
- People with weakened immune systems (from HIV, corticosteroid therapy, organ transplantation, and chemotherapy)
- Very young children
- Senior adults
- People with chronic diseases, such as lung disease
University of Maryland Medical Center
Diagnosis & Testing of Histoplasmosis
There are multiple tests available to diagnose histoplasmosis. One way to diagnose the infection is to perform a fungal culture. Doctors take small samples from tissues or body fluids, such as blood, sputum, bone marrow, liver, or skin and see if the fungus will grow from these samples in a laboratory.
A urine test is available that can check for recent infection from Histoplasma, by measuring the presence of antigen. Histoplasmosis can also be diagnosed by looking at a small sample of infected tissue under a microscope. A blood test can measure prior exposure to the fungus by detecting Histoplasma antibodies. http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/histoplasmosis/diagnosis.html