1 Person Dead & Almost 100 Infected With Rare Fungus In Escanaba
Recently a rare fungal outbreak at a paper mill in Escanaba, Michigan, began with a few getting ill and now one person has lost their life.
Blastomycosis is a rare fungal infection caused by breathing fungi found in damp soil in wooded areas near waterways. Blastomycosis is very uncommon in the United States and is mostly found in Canada.
Most cases of blastomycosis are usually not part of outbreaks but there can be outbreaks large groups of people, usually in a working situation, are catching it from the same source. It is usually associated because of activities that involve disrupting soil like construction, excavating, logging, or even outdoor activities like hunting, fishing, or camping.
1 Person Dies in Upper Peninsula From Rare Fungal Outbreak
Escanaba, Michigan, is the home of Billerud Paper Mill where over a month ago some workers began getting ill. Most thought they had a really bad cold while others experienced pneumonia-like infections which caught the attention of the Public Health of Delta & Menominee Counties health officials.
The paper mill sent workers home for three weeks and sent in a special cleaning crew to get the mill fungal-free before bringing workers back. It was during that time that one of the 97 workers who contracted blastomycosis passed away due to complications.
According to WOOD, one day into the paper mill shut down for cleaning an employee died from blastomycosis. Billerud Paper Mill operations vice president said, "Everyone at Billerud is deeply saddened by the news. anyone who works at our facility is part of our team, and we are keeping this individual, their family, coworkers, and friends in our thoughts and close to our hearts."
Can Blastomycosis Spread from Person to Person?
The only good news regarding blastomycosis is it cannot spread from person to person. So there is no need for panic that this fungal outbreak will make its way across the Upper Peninsula and then cross Mighty Mac and infect those in the Lower Peninsula because that cannot happen.
Many people are beginning to take care of the winter leaves and sticks falling for spring clean up. Make sure your leaf and stick piles are dry when moving them and if you have to dig any soil in a wooded area that's near water, try not to do so with high wings and perhaps wear an N95 mask so you don't breathe in any of the spores in case they are present.