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Histoplasmosis (cont.)

What Are Histoplasmosis Risk Factors?

Although anyone who inhales the fungal components (spores, mycelia) may develop histoplasmosis, unless a large number of fungal organisms or repeated exposure to the fungi occurs, symptomatic disease is infrequent in healthy people. However, infants, children, the elderly, and those with chronic lung disease are at risk. Immunosuppressed patients (for example, cancer or AIDS patients) are at the highest risk for severe histoplasmosis.

Histoplasma capsulatum lives in acidic, damp environments that contain organic material. High concentrations of the fungus occur in caves where bats or birds reside, and the fungi are in the soil. Bats and birds can become infected and spread the fungi in their feces. Most outbreaks occur when construction or renovation projects disturb and aerosolize dust containing the fungi so people who participate in or live near such projects are at higher risk for histoplasmosis.

What Are Symptoms and Signs of Histoplasmosis?

Patient Comments

The large majority (about 90%) of normal individuals who get a mild infection with Histoplasma capsulatum do not develop any symptoms. However, if symptoms do occur, they usually begin about three to 17 days after exposure to the fungi. The symptoms and signs resemble those of pneumonia and may include

If the disease progresses, other symptoms may develop:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pulmonary (lung) nodules
  • Weight loss
  • Vision changes (eye infection with ocular changes to include vision loss)
  • Mouth ulcers
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Encephalopathy
  • Death
Picture of oral lesion (mouth ulcer) in patient with severe histoplasmosis
Picture of oral lesion (mouth ulcer) in patient with severe histoplasmosis; SOURCE: CDC/Lucille K. Georg
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/9/2016

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