In Michigan, at least 109 people are believed to be infected with the rare fungus after five more cases were discovered last week.
The outbreak is associated with a paper mill in Escanaba on the Upper Peninsula and is one of the largest fungal clusters in US history.
These cases are caused by infected blastomycosis. This is a rare fungal disease caused by breathing in spores after disturbing rotting wood or fallen leaves.
13 of the patients were hospitalized, 1 person diedIt is unknown if he is in critical condition.
Health officials fear more cases will be detected in the coming weeks, as it can take months for patients to develop symptoms.
Pictured above is the Bireldo Paper Mill in Escanaba, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where the outbreak was detected. 1 death, 13 hospitalizations, 109 infected
The outbreak has been ongoing at the factory since late February when the first cases were detected.The factory was closed for general cleaning
All the patients were employees, contractors or visitors to the plant, which was shut down in mid-April after officials were unable to locate the source, according to local health officials.
The latest update, which covers the week ending April 28th, was released this Friday, sounding the alarm about the spread of the infection.
The factory has consistently reported several cases each week in April, with 7 detected in the previous week and 4 in the previous week.
Investigators have yet to identify the source, but this could be wood arriving at a paper mill.
Ventilation systems are also now being thoroughly cleaned amid concerns they could spread infection.
Humans catch fungi by inhaling their spores. Infected patients cannot pass the fungus to others.
Local health officer Michael Snyder said in a statement that “the number of new cases reported each week is declining.”
He added: “Many of these cases have been showing signs and symptoms since March.”
This outbreak is believed to be the largest blastomycosis outbreak in U.S. history to date, with the previous largest outbreak in Wisconsin in 2010 resulting in 55 infections, 30 hospitalizations, and 2 deaths. deaths have occurred.
On average, this fungus causes about 6,700 cases and 60 deaths annually across the United States. The number of outbreaks is usually less than 10 people.
Blastomycosis was first diagnosed at the factory in late February, but it took Bireld more than a month to order the plant’s closure.
The company said it was first alerted to the blastomycosis outbreak in early March when a worker first tested positive for the fungus.
It was not clear how the outbreak was triggered, but the fungus is known to live in rotting wood and damp leaf litter.
Gerald Kell, who heads the National Steelworkers Union, which represents plant workers, previously said some workers had to be hospitalized for weeks.
The first fatality was confirmed in mid-April, in a contractor who worked at the factory.
Jamie Dyer, the union’s vice president, told DailyMail.com that those who were seriously ill “couldn’t breathe” and were “vomiting blood and mucus.”
“Their lungs are full of nodules. [of the fungus]”They have fungus-like clumps in their lungs that are preventing them from breathing.”
Blastomycosis (stock image of the fungus Blastomyces) can cause cold-like symptoms in the early stages, but the fungus can spread to other areas of the body and cause more serious illness
Dier said he had to battle six weeks of fungal infections and fungal nodules in his lungs that caused him shortness of breath, but he has since recovered.
Billerud, the Swedish company that owns the factory, closed it in mid-April as a “precautionary measure” to allow a thorough cleaning.
There was also concern that more patients might become infected, but investigators have yet to identify a potential cause of the outbreak.
Factory leaders are working with medical services such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local health departments to respond to the outbreak.
The paper produced at the factory is used to make magazines and pamphlets, workers say.
Blastomycosis begins in the lungs and causes symptoms such as cough, fever, and chest pain, but in severe cases, it can spread to other areas, such as the skin, bones, brain, and spinal cord.
Medications are available to treat this condition, including antifungals such as itraconazole, which act by breaking down the walls of the fungal cells, causing the cells to leak out and eventually die.
However, people taking these medications may need to continue using them for up to a year to clear the infection.
Blastomycosis is rare nationally, with only about 1-2 cases per 100,000 people reported nationwide each year.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the disease has a mortality rate of about 1 in 100 patients.
And the infection does not spread from person to person, according to public health officials.