Things to do in the Caribbean

By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

A Canadian tourist to Cuba returned home to find out weeks later she had contracted a serious fungal infection while spelunking on the island nation.


According to a Periodico Cubano report, Newfoundland resident, Terri Murphy and several other Newfoundlanders became ill with histoplasmosis. aka “cave disease” linked to cave dwelling they did while vacationing.

This has prompted Newfoundland health officials to issue a warning to residents while traveling to do adventure-seeking activities like cave exploring.

Histoplasmosis (also known as Darling’s disease) is a systemic fungal disease that can range in severity from symptom-free to minor self-limited to life threatening illnesses. Infection is quite common but clinical disease is not.

The disease is seen in many areas of the world to include the Americas, Africa, eastern Asia and Australia. It is rarely seen in Europe.

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The fungus is found in soil with undisturbed bird droppings, in old chicken houses, in bat caves and around starling, blackbird and pigeon roosts. The fungus multiplies in bird droppings and bat guano.

Disturbing these contaminated areas and the wind can easily transport infectious fungal particles. Infections in humans and animals are typically due to inhalation of the airborne fungus. It is not transmissible person to person.

The majority of infections (90-95%) are asymptomatic or self-limiting flu-like illness. Others may have symptoms associated with active pulmonary disease; night sweats, cough, fever and weight loss.

In some people, the fungus disseminates through the bloodstream to the spleen, liver, kidneys, mouth, eyes, or central nervous system.

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Disseminated histoplasmosis is especially dangerous in immunocompromised individuals and can result in a rapidly fulminant disease. Over 50% of AIDS patients from endemic areas develop histoplasmosis.

Symptoms typically appear within 10 days but may be shorter in heavy infections.

Histoplasmosis can be diagnosed by chest radiographs and laboratory culture. A biopsy culture of the affected organ and blood cultures are best.

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Histoplasmosis made the news back in 1997 when rock legend Bob Dylan was stricken with a fungal infection of the sac surrounding his heart. He was treated successfully and released from the hospital. Dylan was quoted as saying “I’m just glad to be feeling better. I really thought I’d be seeing Elvis soon.”