In a follow-up on the Blastomycosis outbreak linked to Escanaba Billerud Paper Mill in Michigan, local health officials report to date, there have been 21 confirmed cases of blastomycosis identified.
In addition, 76 people have been classified as probable cases. Twelve out of the 97 total cases have been hospitalized. All 97 of the cases are either employees, contractors or visitors of the Billerud Paper Mill in Escanaba.
There has been one death associated with this outbreak. A contractor who worked at the mill passed away recently due to blastomycosis.
Last Thursday, Billerud announced the temporary idling of the Escanaba Paper Mill to allow for additional cleaning of the facility based on recommendations from NIOSH. Health officials supports this action by Billerud.
Blastomycosis is a disease associated with a fungus that grows in moist soil and decomposing matter such as wood and leaves. People can get blastomycosis infection by breathing in fungal spores from the air. Blastomycosis does not spread from person to person or between animals and people.
Those who do get sick can develop symptoms such as cough (sometimes with blood), fever, chest pain, difficulty breathing, night sweats, fatigue, weight loss, muscle aches, and joint pain. Any persons experiencing these symptoms should contact their healthcare provider and discuss whether testing for blastomycosis is recommended.
Blastomycosis is treatable with antifungal medicines, but it is important to get diagnosed early. Most people with blastomycosis will need treatment with prescription antifungal medication. Depending on the severity of the infection and the person’s immune status, the course of treatment can range from six months to one year.
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