Your Cough and Cold Could Be from Fungus and It May Be More Serious Than You Think

Cases of an unusual fungal infection, called histoplasmosis, have shown up in Montana and Idaho. The Histoplasma capsulatum fungus is something commonly found in the Ohio River and Mississippi valleys, but it has not previously appeared in Montana.

Not just a fluke

According to a report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it was first thought that its appearance might be a fluke where someone traveled out of state and was infected before returning home.

That is clearly not the case as a total of five people have been infected in Montana and one in Idaho. Of those infected people, three needed to be hospitalized, and another has died. None of the people had been involved in any recent travel.

While it is not immediately a cause for alarm, as the fungus is treatable, the problem is the diagnosis. Doctors who are evaluating patients need to be aware that histoplasmosis can cause people to develop pneumonia-like symptoms.

Knowing what to test for is crucial

“It’s a very difficult disease to diagnose because it kind of mimics many other things,” explained Dr. Randall Nett, a medical officer for the CDC in Helena, Montana, who was also the lead author of the report. “Half of these people had been sick for more than six months before they were correctly diagnosed.”

The time these patients first visited a doctor until their official diagnosis ranged from one week up to 20 months. Four of the people had even undergone surgery before receiving their diagnosis.

According to Nett, three of the patients who were not diagnosed for more than six months was, “probably because they had reported no recent travel to H. capsulatum-endemic areas. Among these three patients, none had urine [enzyme immunoassay] testing for the presence of H. capsulatum antigen.”

Specific activities increased risk of infection

The source of these infections, the H. capsulatum fungus, is most often found in soil, particularly if there are bat or bird droppings in it. The spores of H. capsulatum are released into the air when the soil is disturbed.

In looking at the people who were infected, four of the six became sick after performing activities that raised their risk for contracting the fungus. These types of activities included cleaning bird cages, exploring caves, and working with potting soil that contained bat guano.

“The exposure to potting soil occurred in California; the other three exposures occurred in Montana,” said Nett.

Compromised health is also a risk factor

The physical activities were not the only thing that put these people at higher risk. While a normal, healthy person can inhale spores and not become ill, people with compromised health are definitely at an increased risk.

Five of the six people who became sick with the fungus already had compromised health from problems such as previous history of breast cancer, previous history of colon cancer, hepatitis C, active mononucleosis, and type 2 diabetes.

“We would ask folks in the community to be aware if they have a compromised immune system,” said Nett. “They should avoid high-risk activities.”

Use some caution

If you have a compromised immune system, try to avoid activities that involve disturbing soil that might be contaminated, or use protective gear. If you suspect an illness you have contracted could be histoplasmosis, you should consider asking your doctor to perform a noninvasive urine test called enzyme immunoassay.

Investing 101: Do Bonds Belong in Your Portfolio?

Portfolio diversification is a strategy that helps investors manage risk. Investors often choose to diversify among industries for stocks, for instance. But they also consider diversification within different assets types.

Should You Use Extra Cash to Invest or Pay Off Debt?

Deciding between repaying debt repaying versus investing may seem impossible. Everyone’s financial situation is different and only you know from an emotional standpoint what might work best. Start with your

6 Healthy Morning Rituals That Make the Most of Your Day

Whether you are a “morning person” or not, how much thought do you give to the start of your day? Do you realize that by adopting a few simple morning

How to Read and Understand an Options Quote

When you begin trading options you'll spend part of your research scanning for the right options to buy. When you find a list of options, then you'll need to learn

Test Your Financial Advisor’s Loyalty with These Simple Questions

You have a financial advisor in order to make certain you have budgeted your money correctly, have planned for future financial needs, and, in some cases, to turn some of

Sell Puts the Smart Way: Get Out Before Expiration Nears

Selling put options can be a great way to help increase the value of your portfolio without taking on too much risk. At its core, a put sale allows investors


4 Pros and 1 Con of Refinancing Your Home

Two years ago the 30-year fixed mortgage rate was 4.6%. Today it is 2.9%. If your mortgage is in the high threes, you should consider refinancing. Refinancing would lower your

Easy Finance Tip: How to Calculate Your Net Worth

To calculate your net worth, just subtract your liabilities (what you owe) from your assets (what you own). While the equation is simple, it's important to get a snapshot of

Just a Few Bad Market Years Can Slam Your Retirement: How to Cut Your Risk

I believe one very underappreciated risk for investors preparing for retirement is the concept of “sequence of returns.” Sequence of return risk is the danger that the timing of withdrawals

Tai Chi Can Benefits for Those with Chronic Diseases

The Chinese martial art of tai chi can be beneficial to people suffering with chronic illnesses, according to research in the British Journal of Sports Medicine (2015), conducted by Dr.

Two Measures of Options Volatility That Matter

Most people often have a notion of what volatility means. They understand, at least conceptually, that it has to do with data of situations that vary over time. Weather is

3 Financial Habits to Adopt Before You Retire

Nobody wants to work until the day they die. We all want to get to a point where we can simply sit down, relax, and enjoy life.  Consider adopting these