Sonya Cruz of Kenosha, Wisconsin, died from an infection caused by blastomyces, a rare fungus that releases harmful and potentially deadly spores into the air when disturbed.
The fungus is most prevalent in damp, forested areas of the soil. Once the spores settle in the lungs, it can cause an infection called blastomycosis and develop symptoms such as fever and cough. It can become serious and even deadly if untreated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Prior to Ms. Cruz contracting the deadly infection, her husband John Cruz had never heard of it.
“My life. They took my life away from me. I’m not saying the hospital or whoever. Whatever this is, took my wife,” Mr. Cruz told Fox 6.
“I can walk out here and swallow a bullet, not literally a bullet, but a bullet of that,” he said. “I think this is something that needs to be shared around the world.”
Despite the rarity of cases, Wisconsin has some of the highest rates of blastomycosis in the country. The CDC states that Wisconsin reported the highest number of cases in the United States: 2.1 cases per 100,000 residents.
“It’s probably more common than we think,” said Dr. Bruce Klein of the University of Wisconsin.
“That’s probably only a fraction of the true occurrence of infection, because we know that at least half of the cases can have mild or asymptomatic illness,” Dr. Klein said.
According to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, there were 1,142 incidents between 2011 and 2020, roughly 116 each year. Among these, 124 individuals died and 61.3 percent required hospitalization. During that time, there was a 10.9 percent fatality rate.
The CDC said that the rare fungus is also found in other Midwestern, South Central, and Southeastern states.
It’s typically diagnosed through tests done on blood and urine samples. Body fluid and tissue culture tests can also indicate the infection but the report may take up to a couple of weeks to be generated.
Dr. Klein says treatment can work, but warned it can take between six months and a year. Infection is easy for even doctors to miss, so awareness is important, he said.
Shatrice Staten, Ms. Cruz’s daughter, expressed her desire for no one to experience what her family is going through in the wake of her mother’s untimely passing.
“It just sucks. I had to watch my mom take her last breath. It really does,” Ms. Staten said. “I don’t want anyone else to feel like what me and my dad going through.”
A rare fungal outbreak earlier this year affected at least 109 people, with one death and 13 additional hospitalized patients.
The increase in cases in Michigan is assumed to be related to a paper mill in Escanaba, Upper Peninsula, and was brought on by blastomycosis.
From NTD News