A week after Wisconsin health officials announced an investigation into a outbreak of the fungal infection, Blastomycosis, some say linked to the Little Wolf River area in Waupaca County near New London, the ongoing investigation has revealed a significant increase in cases.
The Wisconsin Division of Public Health (WDPH) said Friday that the number of confirmed cases has risen from four one week ago, to 13 as of Aug. 14. In addition, health officials note that another 13 cases are classified as probable and are awaiting confirmation.
The WDPH tweeted today, Important info for people who visited the Little Wolf River in Waupaca Co. since Memorial Day weekend.
If you have visited the Little Wolf River since Memorial Day weekend (May 23-25, 2015), you may have been exposed to the fungus that causes blastomycosis. If you develop symptoms including cough, fever, chills, muscle aches, joint pain or chest pain, visit your health care provider.
Blastomycosis is caused by the dimorphic fungi, Blastomyces dermatitidis. It is endemic in the southeastern and Midwestern United States and his classically associated with the Ohio and Mississippi river valley region.
People typically get infected with this fungus via the lungs through inhalation. Infection can mimic bacterial pneumonia and chronic infection is often confused with tuberculosis.
The fungus can also disseminate through the bloodstream infecting the skin causing lesions on the face and extremities. To a lesser extent, the bone, the prostate and the epididymis can become infected.
Untreated disseminated or chronic pulmonary disease can progress to death.
Blastomycosis can be diagnosed through laboratory testing to include microscopic exam, culture and molecular methods. Itraconazole is the drug of choice for treatment of blastomycosis.
Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today