Histoplasmosis…. Histo What?
Histoplasmosis is an infectious disease caused by inhaling the spores of a fungus called Histoplasma capsulatum. Histoplasmosis is not contagious; it cannot be transmitted from an infected person or animal to someone else.
Histoplasmosis primarily affects a person’s lungs, and its symptoms vary greatly. The vast majority of infected people have no apparent ill effects or experience symptoms so mild they don’t seek medical attention and may not even realize that their illness was histoplasmosis.
If symptoms do occur, they start between 3 and 17 days after being exposed and will appear as a mild, flu-like respiratory illness and has a combination of symptoms including fever, chest pain, dry or nonproductive cough, headache, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, joint and muscle pains, chills, and hoarseness.
So how does one get Histoplasmosis and how does it relate to bats? Simple. Bat Guano. Anyone working at a job or present near activities where material contaminated with H. capsulatum becomes airborne can develop histoplasmosis if enough spores are inhaled. After an exposure occurs, how ill a person becomes varies greatly and most likely depends on the number of spores inhaled and the person’s age, and how susceptible they are to the disease.
Few people will develop symptoms after low-level exposure to materials contaminated with H. capsulatum spores. However, longer periods of exposure to higher concentrations of airborne contaminated materials increase a person’s risk of developing histoplasmosis.
Careers that have increased chances of being exposed to the H. capsulatum spore:
- Bridge Inspector or Painter
- Chimney Cleaner
- Construction Worker
- Demolition Worker
- HVAC Service Worker
- Microbiology Laboratory Worker
- Pest Control Worker
- Restorer of Historic or Abandoned Buildings
- Spelunker (cave explorer)
Bats and birds are both responsible for the H. capsulatum spore and this is why all these careers have a risk of being put into the exposure of the spore and contracting histoplasmosis. The biggest thing that can be done to reduce exposure to H. capsulatum is to exclude a colony of bats or a flock of birds from a building. The best practice is to prevent the accumulation of manure in the first place. When a colony of bats or a flock of birds is discovered roosting in a building, immediate action should be taken to exclude the intruders by sealing all entry points. Any measures that might harm or kill bats or birds should be avoided and calling in a professional to help or fix the problem is always recommended!
When it comes to should we get the guano out of our attic from having bats live in there for a while or let it be? The answer is not always a yes, you should clean up the bat guano. Sometimes if the guano is in a small quantity, leaving it untouched is better because then the risk of circulating the H. capsulatum spore throughout the air in your home. At the end of the day, you need to do what is going to make you feel the most comfortable living in your home but bat guano does not always need to be cleaned up in your attic.