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 as a mold in certain soils and forms spores that can be inhaled, especially when the soil in which it is growing is disturbed. Once the lungs are infected, it 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.

Blatomycosis has been identified in various regions of the U.S. and Canada, especially Michigan, Wisconsin, the Ohio River Valley, Southeastern USA, and Georgian Bay (in Canada). 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. 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 (i.e. open wound) or mucous membrane.

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

  • - Coughing
  • - Wheezing
  • - Weight loss
  • - Chest discomfort and/or shortness of breath (mostly seen in humans)
  • - Weeping sores and/or non-healing skin lesions
  • - General lethargy
  • - Droopy, cloudy, and/or squinting eye (mostly seen in dogs)
  • - Compromised coordination
  • - Limping or lameness with no apparent cause  (mostly seen in dogs)


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

If you suspect blastomycosis, it is important to seek immediate medical attention and to let your healthcare provider (Veterinarian, Doctor,Nurse, etc.) know of your blastomycosis concerns so that they will test tor this fungal infection. Many healthcare providers are not aware of blastomycosis, since it is an under-reported disease.

Consult your vet or doctor and mention your concerns about blastomycosis so that you can discuss if testing for it 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 one who is.


Help and Treatment
There are just a few medications that are currently used to treat blastomycosis. They include Itraconazole (Sportanox), Amphotericin B, and other similar drugs. Effective treatment relies on early diagnosis and intervention. The choice of treatment will be made by your healthcare provider.

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 affected soil
  • - 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.  Research may develop new tools to treat soil, but until then, good information and informed choices are the best practice.

Soil Testing
While soil testing is available, some experts consider existing testing methods unreliable. 

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

For more information, go online and research blastomycosis.

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
  • 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