Nearly 100 confirmed or probable cases of rare fungal infection linked to Michigan paper mill, health officials say


Ninety-three confirmed or probable cases of blastomycosis have been identified in Delta and Menominee counties, Michigan. Local Health DepartmentAnd they are believed to be associated with a paper mill in the town of Escanaba.

Blastomycosis Caused by a fungus called Blastomyces, it lives in the environment, especially in moist soil and on decaying materials such as wood or leaves, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is found mainly in the Midwest and South, especially around the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and the Great Lakes.

According to the CDC, blastomycosis is a reportable condition with one or two cases per 100,000 people each year. One analysis found 1,216 deaths related to the disease from 1990 to 2010.

People can breathe in these microscopic fungal spores, and although most of them won’t get sick, some will develop symptoms such as a fever or cough between three weeks and three months, the CDC says. Other symptoms include chest pain, difficulty breathing, night sweats, fatigue, weight loss and muscle or joint pain, according to the Delta & Menominee Districts of Public Health. In rare cases, the infection spreads outside the lungs to places like the skin, bones, brain, and spinal cord.

Blastomycosis is not spread from person to person. It is treated with antifungal drugs for a period of six months to a year, depending on the severity of the disease and the overall health of the person.

Nineteen cases linked to the Escanaba Billerud paper mill have been confirmed by culture or microscopy, and the other 74 are probable, meaning the person has symptoms of blastomycosis and a positive antigen or antibody test, the health department says.

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“Although the source of the outbreak has not been established, we are taking this matter very seriously and following the recommendations of health and government officials, we are implementing multiple, proactive measures to protect the health and safety of our employees, contractors and visitors,” Billerud Escanaba Mill Operations Vice President Brian Peterson said in a health department statement. stated.

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