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​​​​Blastomycosis, commonly referred to as blasto, is a potentially serious lung infection.

Exposure to the fungus Blastomyces dermatitidis causes the disease.

The fungus lives in organically rich soil and decaying vegetation.

It can release spores into the air when the soil is disturbed. The spores grow in the lungs.

The disease causes symptoms similar to pneumonia.

Blasto​ is not a threat to most healthy people.

However, it is a potentially serious illness. 

The fungal infection is fairly common in northern Wisconsin, including much of the state covered by Marshfield Clinic. 

Doctors must diagnose blasto with certainty before beginning treatment. 

This is done with a sputum examination. 

If the fungus is present, it will show up under examination or in a culture.

Who’s at risk for blasto?

Anyone farming, camping, landscaping, hiking or doing anything that stirs up the soil is at risk. 

People with immune system problems and certain chronic diseases such as diabetes are at higher risk.

If you develop pneumonia and believe you were exposed to blasto, tell your doctor.

Blastomycosis symptoms

Symptoms include:

  • Dry cough, sometimes with chest pain
  • Lung infection (pneumonia) with fever
  • Weight loss
  • Shortness of breath
  • Joint pain
  • Unusual skin sores
  • Body aches

Doctors treat this disease with oral antifungal drugs.

The patient may need to take the drugs for six months or more. ​​​

In occasional cases, the fungus can spread from the lungs to other parts of the body.

Anyone experiencing those symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.​​

 5 things to know about penumonia A fungus among us: Get the dirt on blastomycosis in Wisconsin

Headed into the garden? Maybe you’re camping this spring or doing some yard cleanup. Either way, you need to know about blastomycosis, commonly referred to as blasto. This fungal infection, while rare in much of the U.S., is fairly common in northern Wisconsin, including much of the state covered by Marshfield Clinic Health System. And, it can cause serious illness if not treated appropriately. Read more