LifestyleHealthy LivingStudy Shows Spread of Fungi Leads to Dangerous Lung Infections: Are You...

Study Shows Spread of Fungi Leads to Dangerous Lung Infections: Are You At Risk?

Scientists, doctors, and other health experts are urging others to be aware of the risks associated with the spread of fungi. Certain fungi in soil can cause serious illnesses, including lung infections. These infections can cause permanent damage, troubling complications, and even death. 

So, what do you need to know about the spread of fungi to keep yourself safe? Let’s examine the research further.

How Does Fungi Lead to Infection?

Soil Fungi Lung Infection

There are three species of fungi found in soil throughout the United States that have the potential to cause harm: Histoplasma, Coccidioides, and Blastomyces. Most often, these fungi develop in places where bird or bat droppings affect the soil. They can also be found in places where the earth is especially moist and enriched by wood, leaves, and other materials that naturally decompose into the dirt.

This is why these fungi were previously thought to be contained in only certain areas of the country. However, new research by experts at Washington University School of Medicine shows that these species of fungi can be found in almost every single state as well as the District of Columbia (DC). In fact, 48 out of 50 states have recently reported illnesses that are related to the spread of one of these three fungi.

The spores from these fungi can be distributed without much cause (such as just walking around where the spores are plentiful). But bigger events like construction, landscaping, or farming are more likely to disrupt the soil in the ground and therefore release the spores from the fungus into the air. When these spores are sent airborne, people nearby can be exposed to them by breathing them in.

One of the specific infections that researchers are looking at is called histoplasmosis, or “histo” for short, which is caused by the fungus called Histoplasma. Some health experts report that doctors are in disbelief over there being cases of histo in their counties—that’s how unknown the cause behind these particular lung infections can be. Other conditions that can develop from airborne fungus spores would be valley fever, otherwise known as coccidioidomycosis, and blastomycosis

Scientists have known about these fungi for some time—and the health consequences they can lead to. But these experts aren’t all aware of how common the fungus still is throughout the United States in modern times. That’s why this new research is so important for doctors and patients to understand.

Why Are People Getting Sick by Fungi Now?

In truth, histo, blastomycosis, valley fever, and other fungi-causing illnesses have always been dangerous diseases. However, researchers predict that climate change is one of the biggest reasons as to why the spread of fungi is happening so widely in the country and why the rate of infection is increasing. 

Additionally, this new study shows that the information on disease-causing, fungi-infested areas throughout the country is seriously outdated. Surprisingly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), hasn’t updated the data on areas throughout the US with this type of fungi since 1969. This means it has been over fifty years since the information has been completely accurate.

This is concerning for a few different reasons. To start, people are often walking into situations that they don’t know could be dangerous. Most of the time, people are breathing in the spores from the fungi without even realizing that there is a risk of getting sick.

On top of this, it can take a while for doctors to diagnose histoplasmosis or other infections that are directly caused by fungi. This is because the symptoms often mimic other medical conditions, such as COVID-19 or pneumonia

Lastly, a lot of medical professionals don’t know that the CDC’s information on where the disease-causing fungi are located needs to be updated. Thus, they are relying on old information to assess their patients. This can make it much more challenging for patients who have lung infections to get the proper diagnosis and subsequent treatment.

The only way to change the outcome of these lung infections that come from fungi is to raise awareness on where they could be located. With more knowledge of the risks, people can make better, informed decisions and might be able to protect themselves by avoiding those areas. Furthermore, they will have a better idea of what the signs and symptoms look like for a lung infection caused by fungi and will therefore be able to get more effective treatment.

What Are the Symptoms of a Lung Infection?

Fungi and Lung Infections

Symptoms of a lung infection can vary depending on the type of infection, the severity, and the person who is fighting it off. Some warning signs to look out for when it comes to infections caused by these fungi include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Rash
  • Lingering cough
  • Tightness in chest
  • Difficulty breathing

Of course, these symptoms could indicate several illnesses from the common cold to tuberculosis. A few outstanding symptoms that would warrant immediate medical attention would be unexplained weight loss, wounds that do not heal, or feeling ill for more than a week.

Many times, the symptoms of these fungi-related illnesses are not serious. They can cause some discomfort and might require you to rest more, but recovery is likely with the right treatment.

That said, certain people are at an increased risk of developing more serious lung infections after encountering airborne spores from these fungi. Babies, children, and elderly populations are all considered high risk. Additionally, people who have compromised immune systems are particularly prone to health consequences from the spread of these fungi. This means that those with chronic illnesses could get ill very easily, and with more intense symptoms.

If you fall into one of these vulnerable demographics and you have any symptoms of a lung infection, seek medical attention immediately.

What Is the Outlook?

Unfortunately, if not treated quickly and appropriately, lung infections that develop as a result of breathing in the spores from these fungi can be deadly. That’s why it’s so crucial to monitor any symptoms you may be having and to contact your doctor right away. Be sure to mention if you have traveled at all or been in any of the areas that have seen an increase in related cases.

There are some ways to protect yourself from lung infections, including:

Other steps to take to reduce the chances of you getting one of these diseases would be:

  • Wearing a medical-grade mask if doing work that disrupts soil
  • Avoiding areas that are known to have these fungi
  • Watching for warning signs described by others who have experienced them

Of course, if you do develop a lung infection, drink plenty of water, get a lot of rest, and follow any other treatment advice from your doctor. Keep an eye out for new developments with this research as well—being aware of the risks might just save your life.

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