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Histoplasmosis From Bats

  • Histoplasmosis [his-toh-plaz-MOH-sis] is a fungal infection starting at the lungs that varies in symptoms and seriousness.
  • Histoplasmosis usually causes a short-term, treatable lung infection. When it affects other parts of the body, it is called disseminated histoplasmosis. Disseminated histoplasmosis can be fatal.
  • The histoplasmosis fungus lives in soil, especially soil that is enriched with bat or bird droppings.
  • People get histoplasmosis when they breathe in dust that contains the fungus.
  • Histoplasmosis is treatable with fungus-killing medicines.
  • To prevent histoplasmosis, avoid exposure to dust from soil that might be contaminated with bat or bird droppings.


Bat droppings tumbling out of a filthy contaminated apartment building.

What is histoplasmosis?
Histoplasmosis is an infection that varies in symptoms and seriousness. It usually affects the lungs. When it affects other parts of the body, it is called disseminated histoplasmosis.

What is the infectious agent that causes histoplasmosis?
Histoplasmosis is caused by Histoplasma capsulatum, a fungus. The fungus produces spores that can be inhaled when they get into the air. Spores are hardy forms of the fungus that can live in the environment for a long time. They are frequently found in bat or bird droppings.

How do people get histoplasmosis?
Histoplasmosis is spread through the air. If soil containing the histoplasmosis fungus is disturbed, the fungus spores get into the air. People can breathe in the spores and get histoplasmosis. The disease is not spread from person to person.

Who is at risk for histoplasmosis?
Anyone can get histoplasmosis. Chronic lung infections are more common in males than in females, and particularly in persons with chronic lung disease. Disseminated histoplasmosis occurs most often in infants, young children, and persons with weakened immune systems, such as those with cancer or HIV infection.

What complications can result from histoplasmosis?
Acute histoplasmosis can keep getting worse or can become chronic. Acute histoplasmosis can also spread from the lungs to other organs and lead to the disseminated form of the disease, especially in persons with weakened immune systems.

How can histoplasmosis be prevented?
  • Avoid areas where the fungus might be growing, especially areas with accumulations of bird or bat droppings. The fungus often grows in attics, caves and other areas where bats live, and around various bird roosts.
  • Eliminate accumulations of bat or bird droppings, and minimize exposure to dust in potentially contaminated sites.
  • When working in high-risk areas, wear disposable clothing and a HEPA filter mask that covers the nose and mouth.
  • If you have an infestation of bats or birds in your building, have them professionally removed.

Here we have photos of me preparing to clean an attic filled with bat droppings. The next photo is of a vacuum filled with 12 gallons of guano. This attic required several tanks of removal.

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