Fungal Outbreak Kills One, Hundreds More Infected At US-Based Paper Mill


Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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An outbreak of blastomycosis has killed one and infected more than 100 since early March at the Billerud Escanaba Mill in Michigan.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) are working to investigate an outbreak of a deadly fungal infection called blastomycosis, according to ClickonDetroit. The outbreak is centered amongst workers at the Bellerud Escanaba paper mill.

As of Friday, May 5, there have been 115 confirmed cases of the infection, leading to 14 hospitalizations and one death, the outlet noted. The disease develops in fungus that grows in moist soil and decomposing wood and other organic materials. It can become airborne when that matter is disturbed, and infects people from the source, not human-to-human contact.

“Following a deep cleaning recommended by public health authorities and experts, the Escanaba Mill has initiated resumption of operations as of May 8. To date, no Blastomyces spores have been found within the mill,” Billerud stated on their official website for the mill. “The health and safety of our employees and contractors remains our top priority and we are focused on ensuring a safe return to the mill. We continue to work closely with and follow the recommendations of local, state, and federal health experts as they continue to investigate this dynamic situation.”

Symptoms of blastomycosis include fever, cough, night sweats, fatigue, skin lesions, weight loss, and bodily pain, according to the CDC. It can take up to three months for an infected individual to start feeling symptoms. (RELATED: ‘Everyone Was Throwing Up’: More Than 100 Students Contract Virus At School Dance)

In rare cases, the fungal infection can spread to the central nervous system, such as the brain and spinal cord. The disease is more dangerous to those with an already weakened immune system.