BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: State and local health officials reported Wednesday, Aug. 5, about an hour after Scott Bellile’s article was posted that four blastomycosis cases have now been confirmed among individuals who went tubing on the Little Wolf River in early June.
State Public Health Veterinarian James Kazmierczak 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.
Original story below:
Outagamie County investigating two cases
By Scott Bellile
Business continues as usual at Wolf River Trips and Campground as officials have yet to confirm rumors of a blastomycosis outbreak linked to the river.
Outagamie County is investigating two cases in the Appleton area, Outagamie County public health nursing supervisor Jo Ellen Biadasz said Tuesday, Aug. 4.
No cases of blastomycosis were confirmed in Waupaca County as of Monday, Aug. 3, Waupaca County public health nurse Shirley Yaeger said.
A number of people who have become ill in recent weeks claimed through local media outlets and Facebook to have been tubing on the river sometime this summer.
A July 31 Facebook post by an Appleton woman stating five of her friends contracted the fungal infection after tubing down the Wolf River this summer has generated more than 12,700 shares.
A post by Wolf River Trips & Campground’s Facebook page the same day stated officials have not contacted the campground on the matter and safety remains the business’s top concern. That post has gotten more than 200 likes and shares and spurred debate among those who say they’ve caught blastomycosis, defenders of the business who have not, and those who say they’ve gotten ill but still support the campground.
Appleton Health Department health officer Kurt Eggebrecht said testing may never trace the outbreak to one single source because there is no surefire way to test the soil samples.
Mark Flease, owner of Wolf River Trips and Campground, said Monday an inspector with Waupaca County was looking into the matter but has not confirmed a link.
“People are calling and wondering. It’s like, we have no idea,” Flease said. “The stuff is everywhere. We don’t know where [they] got it from.”
Flease said the campground remains busy and he will not make any decisions without confirmation from health officials. If he gets confirmation then he will respond accordingly.
“There’s a lot of people tubing and camping and doing what they normally do,” Flease said.
All land along the tubing path is private other than the campground’s landings at the beginning and the end, Flease said. The business stated on Facebook that bus drivers advise tubers every trip not to leave the water because all land along the way, including a popular island, is private property.
The Press Star contacted four individuals who have become sick or have publicly stated they know people who are sick. A patient said he was not ready to talk until he recovered and the other three did not respond as of Tuesday afternoon.
Eggebrecht said Wisconsin averages 100 cases of blastomycosis per year. A person catches an infection by disturbing a moist fungus near decaying wood and inadvertently inhaling a spore. This usually occurs in forested areas near water.
Symptoms don’t develop for several weeks to two months, Eggebrecht said. Symptoms include fever, dry cough, weight loss, chest pain, persistent cough, night sweats and muscle aches.