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Blastomycosis—What you need to know to protect yourself

Blastomycosis is a rare infection caused by the fungus Blastomyces dermatitidis. Exposure occurs by inhaling airborne fungal spores or by the fungus entering a scrape or cut. Farmers, forestry workers, hunters, gardeners, and cottagers may be exposed to the fungus if contaminated soil or rotting wood gets disturbed.  The fungus is found in moist acidic soil in parts of Northern Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Quebec, as well as other areas around the Great Lakes and Mississippi Valley. Public Health Sudbury & Districts’ service area is considered an endemic area for the fungus that causes blastomycosis.

Although this is a rare infection, it is important to take precautions to reduce exposure to the fungus when working in moist soil areas, such as under the house, cottage, porch, or shed.

Simple precautions include wearing:

  • work gloves
  • proper footwear
  • long pants
  • long-sleeved shirts
  • disposable NIOSH N100 approved HEPA filter dust mask

The symptoms of blastomycosis can be similar to influenza or pneumonia, and can consist of the following:

  • persistent cough
  • muscle aches
  • joint pain
  • tiredness
  • chills
  • low-grade fever
  • skin sores
  • unexplained weight loss

“Symptoms can present 3 weeks to almost 4 months after being exposed,” said Adam Ranger, an environmental support officer with Public Health Sudbury & Districts. “If you have been to an endemic area, and are suffering from any of these symptoms, please let your health care provider know you may have been exposed to the fungus.” If the infection is left untreated, blastomycosis may be fatal.

For more information on blastomycosis, please visit our website at phsd.ca or call Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705.522.9200, ext. 464 (toll-free 1.866.522.9200).

 

Blastomycosis—What you need to know to protect yourself