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Histoplasmosis – Causes, Symptoms and Prevention

Histoplasmosis is caused by the inhalation of spores of a fungus that is usually found on the droppings of both birds and bats. It is an infection that is commonly spread when these spores change their state and become airborne. This occurs often when there is a clean-up of an infected environment or when there is a demolition of an infected place.

Even the soil can carry the infection if it gets in contact with the droppings of these infected birds or bats. Basically, farmers and people who come in contact with the soil such as miners, and so on are at a larger risk of contracting this infection.

Histoplasmosis is caused by the tiny spores of a fungus known as Histoplasma Capsulatum. These spores are mostly very light, tiny and are very capable of flowing and floating in the air. These spores are found in the air especially when dirt, infected objects or any other contaminated site have been shaken down thoroughly.

One major fact that we all need to understand about histoplasmosis is that on the off chance that you have been infected by histoplasmosis before, you can always get a new infection. Once you get a new infection, the latter infection will not be as severe as the initial infection.

It is worthy to note that the infection is not in any way contagious. It cannot be passed or transmitted from person to person. There are so many symptoms that one can experience when he or she has contracted the infection. For a normal healthy adult, this infection seems insignificant as so many people may be even infected, but they don’t know yet because this infection while in its mildest form hardly produces any symptoms.

However, for infants, little kids and for those who have a compromised, underdeveloped or weakened immune system, histoplasmosis can be a very dangerous disease and, in some cases, can be life threatening.

If not, properly treated histoplasmosis can lead to death. The symptoms for histoplasmosis almost always occur after about 3 – 17 days of initial exposure to the infection. The symptoms include:

  1. Severe fever
  2. Chills mostly felt on the legs, and at the joints
  3. Joint pains
  4. Severe aches in the muscles
  5. Chest discomfort which comes as a result of obstruction in the airways. This can also happen when the persons lungs gradually become affected.
  6. Dry cough
  7. The presence of a rash around the chest and face region may be seen in some people.

There are certain risk factors that one must consider, and they are mostly the professions of people who are often exposed to this infection. They include

  1. Farmers: Due to the nature of their jobs and their frequent daily contact with the soil, they have a high tendency of contracting this infection.
  2. Pest control workers: Most pest control workers who usually specifically have to do with controlling pests on the farm or infected houses are more at risk.
  3. Poultry keepers: Due to the fact they are always exposed to birds and sometimes bats, those little spores from them can become airborne and inhalation occurs.
  4. Construction workers: They are not exempted from contracting this information and this is because they are also exposed to soil particles as well as sand and this are places where the spores of these fungus are found.
  5. landscapers and Gardner’s
  6. Cave explorers: those who enter into the cave to explore may likely contract this disease most especially if the caves are a cafe of bats or were once occupied by bats
  7. Roofers

Note: The possibilities of you developing histoplasmosis increases as the number of spores you inhale increases. This means that there is a greater chance of you developing histoplasmosis once you keep inhaling these spores.

There are some certain people who can easily develop this disease and they include; Infants of ages 2 and below are easily susceptible because of their underdeveloped immune system likewise adults of ages 55 years and above due to their weakened immune system.

Due to the fact that the tendency of getting this infection has to do with problems with their immune system, they may likely get the disseminated form of the infection.
This type is actually very dangerous and can kill

  • People who have HIV because they have a compromised immune system.
  • People who are undergoing Intensive chemotherapy as treatment for those living with cancer.
  • Individuals who use prednisone as treatment of lung conditions
  • People who have rheumatoid arthritis and are managing it with Tumor necrosis factor inhibitors.
  • Individuals taking medications which are meant to suppress rejection of organs when they are to be transplanted.

Histoplasmosis when not treated well can cause a lot of complications even sometimes in healthy people as well. For those with weakened immune systems and underdeveloped immune system, the condition can become potentially life threatening.

  1. ARDS: A person with untreated histoplasmosis can develop acute respiratory distress syndrome otherwise known as ARDS. The spores of fungus inhaled can severely damage the lungs such that the air sacs which are supposed to be filled with air, are no longer filled with air but with fluid.
  2. Severe heart related problems: Histoplasmosis can cause severe inflammation of the pericardial sac that surrounds the heart and related major blood vessels leading to a condition known as pericarditis.

As this occurs, fluid will begin to build up around the heart causing an impairment in the functionality of the heart (hampering the proper blood flow rate surrounding the heart).

  1. Insufficiency of the adrenal glands to produce adrenal hormones: Histoplasmosis can cause a hindrance to the production of adrenal hormones by causing severe damage to the adrenal gland.

Note: The hormones produced by the adrenal glands are those which basically controls and commands almost all the organs of the body if not all.

  1. Meningitis: Although it is very rare for histoplasmosis to cause meningitis, it is not entirely impossible. Meningitis occurs when there is a severe inflammation or swelling around the meninges which are the coverings around the brain and spinal cord.

It is quite difficult but then it is very essential to avoid and prevent histoplasmosis from occurring. One can prevent the occurrence of histoplasmosis in the following ways:

  1. Ensure you use an effective airtight face mask. This will ensure that the rate at which you are exposed to the spores of those fungus will be reduced.
  2. If your job entails you coming in contact with the soil or any contaminated surface, ensure you spray with water first before you start working on the area. This will prevent and reduce spores from filling the air.
  3. Avoid exposing yourself severely to these spores. If you don’t have to necessarily enter the cave, then you shouldn’t enter the cave. If you can avoid projects that involves getting you involved with birds, bats or the soil then avoid them altogether.
Deborah Akinola
Wirter, poet and public speaker

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