Histoplasmosis is an infection caused by inhaling the spores of the Histoplasma Capsulatum fungus. This fungus is present in many places in the environment and people often come into contact with it because it is commonly present in bat guano. This interaction happens when people have a bat problem or infestation in their home, garage, or barn that puts them in close quarters with the guano or because they have to clean it up. This infection can result in lung problems and can even spread throughout the body and cause effects that last long after the infection has gone.
The symptoms can appear in as little as a few days and can range from none at all to serious and will require medical attention. It is possible that some are never even aware that they have been infected because their immune system was strong enough to fight it off. Mild cases resemble a flu that the body will fight off in about a week with symptoms like fever, chills, achy joints, and cough.
When a person’s body doesn’t fight off this mild infection, it can progress into a chronic infection that mainly affects the lungs but can spread throughout the body. When these more serious symptoms take effect that can include chest pain, shortness of breath, a cough that can also produce bloody phlegm, fever, and swelling throughout the body.
This infection can become close to fatal when it reaches the point that there is swelling throughout the body. This swelling will cause headaches (due to swelling around the brain), neck stiffness (due to swelling around the spinal cord), or chest pain (due to swelling around the heart or lungs). There are certain risk factors for the infection reaching this dangerous point.
Who is at risk?
In many people, their immune system will kick in and will fight off the infection. Some people like young children, the elderly, people with compromised immune systems, or those who have chronic lung conditions like bronchitis or emphysema will be more susceptible to serious effects.
It is also possible for those who have had it once to get it again. The body does develop antibodies for this infection that can naturally decrease the chances by about 25%, but this doesn’t make it impossible.
Diagnosis and Treatment
If histoplasmosis is suspected, there are a few ways to test for the infection. A culture from tissue or fluid samples can be done to see if the fungus is present in the person. A urine sample can also be taken to see if there are antibodies present.
If it is diagnosed, the person will be given anti-fungal medications. This treatment could last anywhere from 3 to 12 months depending on the severity of the infection and the person who is infected. The doctor will also regularly check the lungs throughout the duration of treatment, and sometimes afterward, to monitor that damage that the infection is causing in the lungs.
If a person suspects that they are experiencing a bat infestation, it needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. The sooner that it is taken care of, the less likely it is that they are going to be exposed to this infection. People should always make sure to call a professional to remove these animals and they should never touch a bat or their guano with their bare hands. Once they have been removed, the proper cleaning of the area needs to be done to make sure there are no lasting effects of the infestation and the mess they leave behind.