In a follow-up to an earlier report, Wisconsin health authorities have confirmed four blastomycosis cases among individuals who went tubing on the Little Wolf River in early June.

The Wisconsin Department of Public Health investigation is ongoing; however, it’s next to impossible to pinpoint the source of the fungal cluster.

There is currently no way to identify areas where the organism exists, health officials note. The conditions that existed on the Little Wolf River in June, when the individuals making up the current cluster of cases went tubing there, have long since changed. Testing for the fungus in soil or water is usually not successful.

Plate culture of Blastomyces dermatitidis/CDC
Plate culture of Blastomyces dermatitidis/CDC

Blastomycosis develops when inhaled spores of Blastomyces dermatitidis, a type of fungus found in soil, cause an infection in the lung. The spores are released and become airborne when the soil or rotting organic matter is disturbed.

Onset of illness can occur between 3 and 15 weeks after exposure. Symptoms typically include a fever, cough, muscle aches and fatigue which may progress to weight loss, chest pain and a persistent cough. If not detected and treated early, blastomycosis can cause serious health complications.

About half of individuals exposed to the fungus never develop symptoms. Health officials stress that blastomycosis is not spread from person to person and can be treated with the proper medications.

Blastomycosis is treatable with anti-fungal medication, so individuals with continual, persistent pneumonia-like symptoms are encouraged to contact their physicians to help ensure early detection and treatment of the fungus,” said James Kazmierczak, State Public Health Veterinarian.

He noted that because the time between a person’s exposure and when they first become sick is quite variable, it is possible that additional cases may be recognized.

Wisconsin saw 89 blastomycosis cases in 2014.

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