The investigations are ongoing in two important infectious disease outbreak in the US upper midwest–the Blastomycosis outbreak linked to the Little Wolf River in Waupaca County near New London, Wisconsin and the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak among residents at the Illinois Veteran’s Home – Quincy.

Blastomyces dermatitidis/CDC
Blastomyces dermatitidis/CDC

The Wisconsin Division of Public Health are reporting a slight increase in confirmed cases of the fungal infection, Blastomycosis during the past week.

The total confirmed case count has increased by three to 29, with another 29 probable cases under investigation.

Health officials continue to advise visitors of the exposure risk to the fungus who visited the Little Wolf River since Memorial Day weekend.

Illness may develop 2-15 weeks after exposure to the fungus. Symptoms may include cough, fever, chills, muscle aches, joint pain or chest pain.

Directly south of Wisconsin, the Legionnaires’ disease outbreak tally at the Illinois Veteran’s Home – Quincy continues to grow with health officials now reporting 48 cases among residents of the home.

In addition, Sky News reports today that an additional fatality linked to this outbreak has bee revealed, bringing the death count to 8. This number, as of this writing, has not been updated on the Illinois Department of Health website.

Legionella bacteria are widely distributed, and normally grow best in warm water environments. They have been found in creeks and ponds, water taps (primarily hot water taps), hot water tanks, cooling towers and evaporative condensers, whirlpool spas, and decorative fountains.

Legionella pneumophila bacteria/CDC
Legionella pneumophila bacteria/CDC

Most people contract the disease by inhaling mist or vapor from a water source contaminated with the bacteria.  In some cases, the disease may be transmitted by other ways, such as aspirating contaminated water.  The disease is not contracted by drinking contaminated water, and person-to-person spread of legionellosis does not occur.

People of any age may get Legionnaires’ disease, but the disease most often affects persons older than 50.  The disease is rare in people younger than 20 years of age.

People at high-risk of acquiring the disease include current and former smokers, persons with chronic lung disease like emphysema or COPD, or those with compromised immunity (like patients who receive corticosteroids or have had an organ transplant).  People with underlying illnesses, such as cancer, kidney disease, diabetes, or AIDS are also at higher risk.

Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today

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