What is histoplasmosis?

Histoplasmosis is a disease that is commonly found in the droppings of bats and birds. The disease, also referred to as cave disease, Darling’s disease and Ohio Valley disease, is caused by a fungus, Histoplasma capsulatum, which is commonly found in the feces of animals such as rodents and birds.

The fungus can be quite dangerous if not treated right away. In fact, it is one of the common causes of death among people that have the AIDS virus, because their immune systems are not able to combat the illness.

Those who contract the disease usually show symptoms within 17 days of exposure to the fungus. Many of the symptoms are not noticeable for the first 10-14 days, but soon they will manifest as respiratory struggles, often like cold and flu-symptoms. Because of its similarities, many doctors mistakenly diagnose histoplasmosis as tuberculosis.

Those who are not properly treated will soon find themselves battling through very severe complications. The fungus will eventually cause severe damage to the organs of the body, and is fatal unless it is treated early on. Even those who are treated a month after contracting the illness do not stand much of a chance of survival.

What causes people to contract the illness is quite interesting. The fungus is carried in the excretory tract of rodents and birds and is released when defecation occurs. When an unsuspecting person steps on, cleans, or disturbs the feces in some way it breaks apart, releasing the fungus into the air. The person or animal then breathes in the disease and this is how they contract it. This is why you must be really careful around the waste of other animals. It is a very good idea to always make sure that you cover your skin, wear gloves, and wear a mask to protect your airways.

If you are concerned that you may have been subject to exposure to this parasite, make sure you seek the care of a doctor immediately. Complications from this illness can arise quickly, and include such things as pneumonia, respiratory failure, superior vena cava syndrome, and fibrosis of the lymph nodes. These are all quite serious and can be fatal. This illness was first discovered in 1905. It gained worldwide attention when there was a series of exposures that were found where people were infected and were dying. This occurred in the 1930s, and since then doctors have been more careful to watch for the illness, especially in areas where the fungus is known to be a real issue.

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