A paper mill in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula has been linked to a recent outbreak of blastomycosis, an infection caused by breathing in spores from a fungus commonly found in decomposing matter, such as wood. Public health officials have confirmed 19 cases associated with the Billerud Paper Mill, with an additional 74 cases considered “probable”. The mill has since implemented measures to protect the health and safety of its employees, including cleaning common areas, inspecting ventilation systems, and providing N95 masks to all workers. Blastomycosis infections are extremely rare, with an average of just 26 cases reported in Michigan each year over the past five years. Symptoms of the infection can include coughing (sometimes with blood), difficulty breathing, fever, chest pain, night sweats, fatigue, weight loss, muscle aches, and joint pain. It is not contagious, but can lead to pneumonia and death if left untreated. The fungal spores are common in the Upper Peninsula and in Wisconsin, especially in northern areas, and the Public Health of Delta and Menominee Counties recommends taking measures such as wearing personal protective equipment and avoiding moving or digging soil on windy days to minimize the risk of infection.
Recommended: Lots to do this April weekend around the Reno region