Health officials link disease to Little Wolf River
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has confirmed 10 blastomycosis cases among individuals who went tubing on the Little Wolf River this summer as of Tuesday, Aug. 11.
There is currently no way to identify areas where the organism exists. 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.
Onset of illness can occur between three 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.
About half of individuals exposed to the fungus never develop symptoms. Blastomycosis is not spread from person to person.
Blastomycosis is treatable with anti-fungal medication, according to 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.
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.
In Wisconsin, a total of 91 cases were reported in 2013 and 89 cases in 2014. Sixty-one percent of those cases were hospitalized.