Histoplasmosis is the most common endemic fungal infection in the United States and occurs most frequently in the Ohio Valley River region. The infection is caused by a specific organism called Histoplasma capsulatum. Histoplasmosis is generally mild in healthy individuals, but those who smoke or have a weakened immune system can experience chronic, and sometimes life threatening, forms of infection.
Histoplasmosis infection commonly occurs after a disturbance of the ground is made and fungal spores become airborne and are inhaled into the lungs. Digging, removing trees, building demolition and even chicken coop cleaning can disturb histoplasma spores and result in infection.
Healthy individuals generally have few symptoms and resolve the infection without intervention. However, symptoms of infection can include flu-like symptoms, headaches, tiredness, fever, shortness of breath and a dry cough. Those with weakened immune systems or with more severe infection can experience life threatening symptoms if Histoplasmosis is left untreated. Cavitary lesions (pockets of infection in the lungs), drop in blood pressure, gastrointestinal bleeding and even respiratory failure can occur if left untreated in those with severe infection.
Diagnosis is made by reviewing your possible exposure to histoplasma spores, blood tests for antigens in your blood from the infection, chest x-ray or CT and sometimes a biopsy of the lung through bronchoscopy.
Treatment of Histoplasmosis varies on the severity of the infection. Healthy individuals do not always require treatment and their body can clear the infection on their own. Those with more severe infection or weakened immune systems require long term treatment including antifungal medication and/or IV (intravenous or in your vein) antibiotics. Your physician will monitor your progress during therapy and after to determine the proper follow up for you.