Histoplasmosis is an infection that is caused by the Histoplasma capsulatum fungus. This fungus is most commonly found in the droppings of bats and chickens. Chickens have a body temperature too high for them to get sick from the fungus, but they can be carriers. Bat droppings are the most common way for this infection to be contracted by people.
How do people contract this infection?
This fungus grows on the droppings that bat produce. People are put into situations where they can come into close contact with the fungus when bats make their way into attics, barns, or garages. The infection is contracted when the fungus is disturbed, and the spores become airborne. Once they are airborne, they can be inhaled, and this will be the cause of the infection.
What does this infection do to people?
There are many instances where people may inhale the spores and never show any signs of being sick at all. In cases where people do become ill, the symptoms are often similar to that of the flu. There are fevers, body and muscle aches, chills, and cough. These symptoms can last for a few weeks. Many times, people are able to fight off the infection and feel better in a couple of weeks.
In some cases of the infection, it can progress into a chronic lung infection and this is when it becomes serious. This will expand the symptoms to include shortness of breath, bloody phlegm, and a deep cough. In very rare cases, it can spread to other parts of the body like the heart, brain, and spinal cord. When this happens, it can become a fatal illness.
Who is at the greatest risk for this infection?
It is possible for anyone to contract this illness, but there are people who are going to be at a higher risk of contracting it and for it to become serious. As with many infections and illnesses, the young, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are always at a greater risk. In the case of histoplasmosis, people with chronic lung issues, like chronic bronchitis or emphysema, are at a higher risk because their lungs are already in a compromised state. Also, people who work in industries that will put them in possible contact with bat guano are going to run a higher risk as well.
How is it treated?
This infection is, quite often, not diagnosed until it reaches the point of becoming a chronic lung infection. This is due to the fact that the mild cases so closely resemble an average flu. Once it has been diagnosed, there are successful treatment options for the infection.
Doctors will start with a treatment of antifungal medications and this medication may need to be take up to a year after the person was infected. During this time the doctor will keep an eye of the possible damage that may be done to the lungs. If it spreads to other areas of the body, producing other symptoms, they will treat those as they come.
How can people prevent it?
The best way to prevent it is to avoid contact with bat guano. If a person is dealing with or has had an infestation in their home or on their property, they are going to need to properly clean up the mess the bats have left behind. This can be done themselves, but the best idea is to call in a professional because they are going to know how to clean it up in a way that is safe for everyone.