Histoplasmosis is caused by a fungus that lives in soil, particularly where there’s a large amount of bird or bat poop. People can get histoplasmosis by breathing in fungal spores, and infection can be mild or life-threatening.
Acute, or short-term, histoplasmosis is typically mild. It rarely leads to complications.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that between 60 and 90 percent of people who live in areas where the fungus is common to have been exposed. Many of these people probably did not have any symptoms of infection.
Chronic, or long-term, histoplasmosis occurs far less often than the acute form. In rare cases, it can spread throughout the body. Once histoplasmosis has spread throughout your body it is life-threatening if it isn’t treated.
The widespread disease usually occurs in people with impaired immune systems. In areas where the fungus is common, the CDC says that it may occur in up to 30 percent of people with HIV.
Fungal spores can be released into the air when contaminated soil or droppings are disturbed. Breathing the spores may lead to an infection.
The spores that cause this condition are commonly found in places where birds and bats have roosted, such as:
You can get histoplasmosis more than once. However, the first infection is generally the most severe. The fungus doesn’t spread from one person to another and it’s not contagious.
Symptoms of histoplasmosis include:
These symptoms usually appear 3 to 17 days after breathing in the fungus. Because other bacterial or viral diseases have similar symptoms, patients can experience delays in getting correctly diagnosed and treated.
Diagnosing histoplasmosis can be complicated, depending on what parts of your body are affected. While testing might not be necessary for mild cases of histoplasmosis, it can be crucial in treating life-threatening cases.
Your doctor may suggest searching for evidence of the disease in samples of:
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