What is histoplasmosis?
Histoplasmosis is an infection of the lungs caused by a fungus called Histoplasma capsulatum. Occasionally the fungus also infects other parts of the body; this form of the disease is called “disseminated histoplasmosis” and is uncommon.
Where is this fungus found?
This fungus is found throughout the world and is common in parts of the eastern and central United States. The fungus often grows in soil around chicken coops, bird roosts, in caves, and areas where bats roost.
How is the fungus spread?
The fungus grows in soil that has been enriched with bat or bird droppings. It produces tiny, resistant structures called spores. Persons become infected by inhaling spores when the soil is disturbed. Person-to-person spread of histoplasmosis does not occur.
Who gets histoplasmosis?
Anyone can get histoplasmosis. It is recognized more often in persons with chronic lung disease and in immunocompromised individuals, such as those with cancer or AIDS.
What are the symptoms of histoplasmosis?
The majority of infected persons do not get sick. When people do become sick, symptoms can vary widely from flu-like illness to serious lung infection. Symptoms of an acute infection may include fever, chest pains, and a dry nonproductive cough. Chronic pulmonary disease resembles tuberculosis and progresses over months or years. The disseminated form is usually fatal unless treated.
How soon do symptoms appear?
Symptoms may appear within 5 to 18 days (usually 10 days) after exposure. Most people do not experience symptoms.
What is the treatment for histoplasmosis?
Specific antifungal medications can be used to treat more severe cases of histoplasmosis. Mild disease usually resolves without treatment. Past infection results in increased, but not complete, resistance to reinfection.
How can histoplasmosis be prevented?
The risk of infection can be reduced by limiting exposure to dust in potentially contaminated and enclosed areas such as chicken coops and caves. If avoidance of these areas is not possible, the use of a protective mask, and spraying the area with water may be helpful in limiting exposure to dust.
This fact sheet is for informational purposes only. It should not be used for self-diagnosis or as a substitute for consultation with a health care provider. If you think that you may have this infection, or have questions about the disease described above, you should consult your health care provider.
For additional information on this disease, visit the Centers or Disease Control and Prevention website.
To contact the Epidemiology and Emerging Infections Program, please call 860-509-7994.