Blastomycosis
Blastomycosis is a rare but significant health risk to both humans and pets. Michigan's Eastern Upper Peninsula is an endemic (or high-risk) area, with the Les Cheneaux Islands region and Drummond Island already identified as high incidence areas. The disease is very serious but treatable, so early diagnosis is crucial. This brochure is designed to provide basic information on the nature of the disease, its signs and symptoms, treatment, and links to more in-depth information. Please read and keep this brochure handy and make sure others know about this issue.

What is Blastomycosis?
Blastomycosis is a fungal infection that can lead to serious and sometimes fatal disease. Dogs and humans are most commonly at risk, although other animals are also susceptible. The fungus grows in soils, especially soils that are very moist with a high organic content and an acid pH. Under certain conditions the fungus forms spores that can be inhaled, especially when the soil in which it is growing is disturbed.  Once the lungs are infected, the fungus can affect other parts of the body, including the eyes, skin, genitourinary tract, bones, and joints. Blastomycosis causes a variety of symptoms and can lead to serious illness and death.

Blastomycosis has been identified in various regions of the U.S. and Canada, especially Michigan, Wisconsin, the Ohio River Valley, Southeastern USA, and Canada's Georgian Bay. Certain areas of Michigan's Upper Peninsula are regarded as high-incidence "hot spots". Residents of, and visitors to, these areas should become well informed about this threat.

To date, blastomycosis is an under-reported disease, and still not enough is understood about it.  Blastomycosis is a reportable disease for humans but not for animals in Michigan.Therefore, increased knowledge, reporting, collaborative efforts, and support of research are critical to combat this problem.


Current research indicates that blastomycosis is not contagious, with the very rare exception being an infected skin lesion making direct contact with broken skin or mucous membrane.

Signs, Symptoms, and Diagnosis
In its early stages blastomycosis can present as a variety of symptoms, which can vary from humans to dogs. You might see:

Canines: Most commonly infected, but not restricted to, are younger, sporting dogs.

  • Fever
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Eye discharge
  • Eye inflammation, especially the iris
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Skin lesions
  • Limping or lameness with no apparent cause 

Humans:

  • Flu-like symptoms
  • In humans about half of blastomycosis infections do not result in symptoms or illness.


Some at these symptoms are commonly seen in other illnesses, and diagnosis as blastomycosis is often missed. Effective treatment of blastomycosis depends on an early diagnosis.

If you suspect blastomycosis, consult your veterinarian or physician and mention your concerns to determine if testing is appropriate. Current clinical blastomycosis tests are not always accurate, so follow-up evaluation should be discussed. If your health care provider is not familiar with blastomycosis, ask that they consult with on who is. You may have to be insistent to have the clinician run blastomycosis tests.

Help and Treatment
There are just a few medications that are currently used to treat blastomycosis. They include Variconizole, Itraconazole (Sporanox), or other "azole" drugs, Amphotericin B, and other similar drugs. Effective treatment relies on early diagnosis and intervention by your vet or physician.

Prevention
Currently there is no vaccine available to prevent blastomycosis, so we support research efforts to help find one. The best ways to limit possible exposures are:

  • Learning what the areas and conditions may be likely to harbor the fungus
  • Avoid digging in or disturbing high risk soils
  •  Avoid rotting wood


If digging or excavation in affected areas must be done, wearing a surgical mask may be advisable, and keeping dogs, cats, or people with compromised immune systems away from this area is highly suggested.  

Soil Testing
Soil testing can be accomplished in research facilities but consumer tests are presently unavailable.

Please remember, blastomycosis is a genuine concern in our region and is more of a threat to dogs than other pets or people. It can be best to be dealt with by:

  • Becoming well-informed
  • Sharing information with others
  • Supporting efforts to make the medical community and public better educated about this disease
  • Supporting research


The Les Cheneaux Community Foundation has established a fund specifically to help accomplish this.

If you are interested in donating to the Blastomycosis Field of Interest Fund, please make your check out to LCCF and earmark/memo it for "blastomycosis". Donations can be mailed to:

LCCF

PO Box 249
Cedarville, MI 49719

Informative links for Blastomycosis symptoms and treatment in dogs and in humans

Dogs:

Humans and Dogs:

  • Merck Manual: merckmanuals.com/home/infections/fungal-infections/blastomycosis
  • Emedicine: emedicinehealth.com/blastomycosis
  • Centers for Disease Control: cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/blastomycosis
  • Listing, by city (MI) of physicians who treat human blastomycosis infection: lifescript.com/blastomycosis-mi


Additionally, consultation with the following providers and/or researchers is recommended:

  • Dennis J Baumgardner, M.D. (414) 219-5191(focus is on environmental sources of the fungus)
  • Clinton Groover, D.V.M. (906)647-6512 groover@msu.edu
  • Carol A. Kauffman, M.D. ckauff@umich.edu
  • Daniel K. Langlois, D.V.M. (517)353-5420 langlo21@cvm.msu.edu
  • Dr. L. Joe Wheat, MiraVista Diagnostics, Indianapolis, IN., jwheat@miravistalabs.com
  • Dr. Alfred Legendre, (865) 974-8387,  alegedr@utk.edu
  • MiraVista Diagnostics website: www.miravistalabs.com

Les Cheneaux Community Foundation