Histoplasmosis is an infection that usually affects the lungs.
Histoplasmosis is caused by a specific fungus. People often become infected when they inhale the fungus. The fungus can become airborne in dust or debris during demolition projects. People can also come in contact with the fungus through contact with soil contaminated with bat or bird droppings.
Factors that may increase your chance of exposure to histoplasmosis include:
- Having a job that puts you in contact with bird or bat droppings, such as in an aviary
- Being involved in activities that put you in contact with bird or bat droppings, such such as cave exploration
- Keeping birds as pets
- Living along river valleys
- Living in Mississippi, Ohio, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Missouri, or Tennessee
- Living in eastern Canada, Mexico, Central or South America, parts of the Caribbean, southeast Asia, or Africa
- Having recently traveled to a location where histoplasmosis is common
Not everyone who comes in contact with the fungus will develop an infection. Medical conditions that weaken your immune system, like HIV, can increase your chance of infection.
Histoplasmosis does not generally cause symptoms. Symptoms that may occur include:
- Achy muscles
- Joint pain
- Feelings of discomfort or uneasiness
- Spitting out blood
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Weight loss
- Mouth sores
- Abdominal fullness from an enlarged liver and spleen
- Skin rashes
- Swollen lymph glands
- Loss of vision
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Your body fluids and tissues may be tested. This can be done with:
The immune system can often remove the fungus. People who do not have symptoms or those who have mild symptoms do not need treatment.
Antifungal medication may be needed if symptoms last for more than 1 month.
If you have a suppressed immune system, like HIV, you may need life-long antifungal medication. The medication will help to prevent a recurrence of histoplasmosis.
If you might be exposed to bird or bat droppings, wear a face mask.
If you have a weakened immune system, completely avoid:
- Any areas where you may find bird and bat droppings
- Creating or working with surface dust from soil
- Cleaning, remodeling, or demolishing old buildings
- Cleaning chicken coops
- Exploring caves
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
Public Health Agency of Canada
Histoplasmosis. American Academy of Family Physicians Family Doctor website. Available at: http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/diseases-conditions/histoplasmosis.html. Updated March 2014. Accessed December 22, 2014.
Histoplasmosis. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/histoplasmosis. Updated September 25, 2014. Accessed December 22, 2014.
Histoplasmosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated October 17, 2014. Accessed December 22, 2014.
Last reviewed December 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.