Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services (Banner Imagery) - Go to home page

Histoplasmosis

Division of Epidemiology & Health Planning

275 East Main Street

Frankfort, KY 40621

502-564-3418

What is Histoplasmosis?

Histoplasmosis is an infectious disease caused by the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum. The disease affects the lungs, but other organs can become infected as it spreads to other parts of the body. H. capsulatum is found throughout the world and is common in poultry house litter, caves, bat-infested lofts, and pigeon roosts.

How Does the Infection Develop?
The small spores of Histoplasma capsulatum grow in soil and material that has been contaminated with bat or bird droppings. When the contaminated soil is disturbed, the spores become airborne and breathing in of the spores causes the infection. Infected persons cannot transmit the disease from person-to-person. Birds are not infected with the disease because of their high body temperatures, but they can carry it on their feathers. Bats may be infected because they have a lower body temperature than birds and can excrete the organism in their droppings.
What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of histoplasmosis include weakness, fever, chest pains, and a dry or nonproductive cough. The severity of the symptoms depends upon the amount of exposure. Symptoms generally begin within 3 to 17 days after exposure. A chest x-ray may show the pattern of infection.

How is histoplasmosis treated?

Most patients who develop histoplasmosis do not require treatment. Antifungal medications are often used to treat severe cases. Past infection of histoplasmosis results in partial protection against the disease if reinfection occurs.

Is there any prevention against histoplasmosis?

Prevention against histoplasmosis relies on avoiding exposure to dust in a contaminated environment. It is good practice to spray chicken coops or other contaminated soil with water before cleaning to avoid creating dust.

Persons working in contaminated areas should use protective clothing to include gloves, coveralls, masks or a respirator equipped with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter that is capable of filtering particles down to two microns in size.

For more information on exposure to H. capsulatum related to job or activities, contact the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Where can I learn more information about histoplasmosis?
Click here to learn more about histoplasmosis from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Web site.

 

Last Updated 3/30/2007