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What is histoplasmosis?

Histoplasmosis is an infection caused by a fungus called Histoplasma. This fungus is common in the central and eastern United States, especially around the Ohio and Mississippi River valleys. It can also be found in parts of Central and South America, Africa, Asia, and Australia. It lives in the environment, especially in soil that contains large amounts of bat or bird droppings (poop).

How do you get histoplasmosis?

You get histoplasmosis by breathing in Histoplasma fungal spores from the air. It usually happens after you have been doing an activity that disturbs the soil, such as farming, construction, and landscaping. Histoplasmosis is not contagious. This means that you cannot get the infection from another person or an animal.

What are the symptoms of histoplasmosis?

Most people who breathe in the spores never have any symptoms. If you do get symptoms, they usually start between 3 and 17 days after you breathe in the spores. The symptoms may include:

For most people, the symptoms of histoplasmosis will go away within a few weeks to a month. However, some people can have symptoms that last longer, especially if their infection becomes severe. Certain people are more likely to get a severe infection:

Severe histoplasmosis can develop into a long-term lung infection. It can also spread from the lungs to other parts of the body, such as the central nervous system (the brain and spinal cord). This is known as disseminated histoplasmosis.

How is histoplasmosis diagnosed?

To find out if you have histoplasmosis, your health care provider:

  • Will ask about your symptoms and your medical and travel history
  • Will do a physical exam
  • Will likely order a blood, urine, or tissue test to look for signs of the fungus
  • May order a chest x-ray or CT scan of the lungs

What are the treatments for histoplasmosis?

For some people, the symptoms of histoplasmosis will go away without treatment. But you will need treatment if you have severe histoplasmosis in the lungs, chronic histoplasmosis, or an infection that has spread to other parts of the body. That treatment would be with prescription antifungal medicines. In some cases, you may need to take the medicines for 3 months to 1 year.

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The information on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Contact a health care provider if you have questions about your health.