What is histoplasmosis?
Histoplasmosis is a fungal infection caused by the Histoplasma Capsulatum Fungus (histoplasma).
Where is this fungus found?
It is found throughout the world. In the United States, the fungus is most common from the Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic coast including some Southeastern states. The fungus is typically found in soil and grows as a mold. Soil that is contaminated with bird or bat excrement could likely have higher amounts of the fungus. Although birds are not typically carriers of histoplasma it appears that the fungus thrives in soil contaminated with bird droppings. Bats have been shown to be carriers.
How is a person infected?
Histoplasma fungus is airborne and enters into a person’s body through the lungs while breathing. Workers who work in fields including farmers, gardeners, farmers using natural fertilizer products containing bat or bird excrement, and chicken farmers are at a higher risk of contracting and developing histoplasmosis. Similarly, those that work in fields that involve cleaning and/or constructing in areas were birds or pigeons roost, such as chimney sweepers, pest control workers, bridge painters/inspectors, roofers, and heating and air conditioning workers are also at risk. Scientists in microbiology labs, those studying bats in caves or scientists that collect soil samples where birds may be are at risk as well. Construction and demolition workers may be exposed to the fungus present in dust while working. Workers should take precautions and use masks, respirators and wear protective clothing.
What are the symptoms?
There are different types of histoplasmosis infections. Acute pulmonary histoplasmosis is localized to the lungs and can produce no noticeable symptoms. In other cases, flu like symptoms may appear, such as fever, chills, cough, and chest pain when breathing. Chronic pulmonary histoplasmosis can cause chest pain, cough, shortness of breath sweating, fever, and the coughing up of blood (hemoptysis). Although localized to the lungs in these cases, in a small number of individuals the infection can cause inflammation in other body parts, including various joints, skin, bone, and the lining of the heart.
The infection can potentially spread as well. This is called disseminated histoplasmosis, which can affect the joints, and cause skin lesions. A small percentage of those with disseminated histoplasmosis can develop complications of the blood, brain covering (meningitis), and internal organs such as the adrenal gland. Those with compromised immune systems such as HIV patients are at a higher risk of complications including those found in disseminated histoplasmosis.
Are there other complications?
A number of further complications can arise from histoplasmosis including fibrosis or scarring of the lungs. This may have an impact on the heart, the lungs, blood vessels, and breathing. Inflammation of joints may cause pain, skin rashes may be unsightly, and an inflamed lining of the heart may cause cardio-pulmonary complications. These complications can become life threatening.
How is it diagnosed?
Chest x-rays, blood tests, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) (spinal tap), and urine tests are some of the ways doctors may diagnose histoplasmosis. Currently, skin tests may also be used to diagnose the infection.
How is treated?
Treatment of histoplasmosis involves administering anti-fungal drugs including itraconazole or ketoconazole. Persons with chronic or disseminated histoplasmosis, especially those with weakened immune systems, may need a more powerful drug taken for a longer period of time.
I can sue over this?
If you have acquired a histoplasmosis infection while working, we know many attorneys throughout the state who have had great success litigating unique workers’ compensation cases. Any attorney who we recommend will have years of experience handling workers’ compensation cases. Using Findgreatlawyers.com, we cannot guarantee the outcome of your case, but your chances of success will increase.
How will I pay for an attorney?
Your attorney should charge on a contingency fee basis if you contracted histoplasmosis during work. This means that you will not pay any attorneys’ fees unless you obtain a recovery amount. All of the costs that are associated with your case should be paid by your attorney, which means you pay nothing until you win. If you win, all fees, costs and expenses of litigation will come from the amount you recover in your case.