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October 2013 Archives

HISTOPLASMOSIS IN THE WORKPLACE: THE BAT DROPPINGS AND BIRD MANURE DISEASE

Are you exposed to bat droppings and bird manure in your workplace? If so, you may be a at risk for a diagnosis of Histoplasmosis.Recently, I handled a case involving this disease.Histoplasmosis is an infectious disease caused by inhaling the spores of a fungus called H. capsulatum. Histoplasmosis is not contagious; it cannot be transmitted from an infected person or animal to someone else.Histoplasmosis has various symptoms, but primarily affects your lungs. The vast majority of infected people have no visible side effects. Those who do experience mild symptoms often don't seek medical attention and may not even realize that their illness was histoplasmosis.Histoplasmosis can appear as a mild, flu-like respiratory illness. The symptoms may include a combination of malaise (generally feeling lousy), fever, chest pain, dry cough, headache, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, joining and muscle pains, chills, and hoarseness. Don't be lulled into believing that histoplasmosis is a harmless disease. Histoplasmosis can cause chronic lung disease and worsen over time. Special antifungal medications are needed to stop the disease, and surgery is sometimes required to remove a portion of the affected lung.A person who has had histoplasmosis can get it again. Anyone working in a job or near activities where material which has been contaminated with the Histoplasmosis spore can develop histoplasmosis, if enough spores are inhaled. After exposure, the degree of sickness varies greatly, due to the number of spores you may have inhaled, your ageyour susceptibility to the disease. Longer durations and intensity of exposure significantly increase your risk of developing histoplasmosis. Below is a partial list of occupations and hobbies with risks for exposure to H. capsulatum spores, published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):· Bridge inspector or painter
· Chimney cleaner
· Construction worker
· Demolition worker
· Farmer
· Gardener
· Heating/Air-conditioning installer/service worker
· Pest Control worker
· Microbiology worker
· Restorer of historic or abandoned buildings
· Roofer
· Cave explorer The CDC has also identified geographic areas in which there is a higher incidence of the disease. Washington County and Greene County, in Pennsylvania, are on the CDC map, along with parts of West Virginia and Ohio. If you engage in these activities and develop flu-like symptoms days or weeks after disturbing material that might be contaminated with H. capsulatum, and the illness worsens rather than subsides, you should seek medical care immediately.If the disease was contracted "in the course and scope" of your job, you are entitled to lost wages and medical expenses you experience, under the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act. If you think that you acquired Histoplasmosis in the workplace, please call me for a legal consultation about your rights. There is no legal fee unless we obtain a money recovery or reimbursement of medical expenses incurred for you.

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