Rare fungal infections reported around Willow River

Small number of cases of Blastomycosis have been reported in people and pets.

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Willow River near Boardman, Wis. (Greg Seitz/St. Croix 360)

The Wisconsin Division of Public Health (DPH) and St. Croix County Public Health are investigating a small number of cases of Blastomycosis in humans and animals (canine) linked to the Willow River area near Boardman, Wisconsin. Public Health will contact households in this area by mail with more information. We will update this page as we have more information.  

Read the information below to learn more about Blastomycosis. If you have questions or concerns, please call St. Croix County Public Health at 715-246-8263.

What is Blastomycosis?

Blastomycosis is a rare but potentially serious fungal infection that can affect humans and animals. The fungi that cause Blastomycosis is common across Wisconsin and can be found in moist soils, especially along waterways. Illness can occur 3 to 15 weeks after breathing in the fungal spores. Blastomycosis cannot be passed from person to person, person to pet, pet to pet, or pet to person.

Anyone can get Blastomycosis, but severe or fatal infections are more common in people who smoke or vape, have a history of lung disease, or with weakened immune systems. Severe infections can usually be prevented through early diagnosis and treatment with antifungal medications.

Learn more about Blastomycosis with these resources:

What are the symptoms?

If you are experiencing symptoms, contact a healthcare provider. Let them know if you have been to an area where Blastomycosis is common. There is no vaccine to prevent Blastomycosis. There are diagnostic tests and treatments available for both humans and pets. Local healthcare facilities and veterinary clinics have been notified of the presence of Blastomycosis in the area mentioned above.

Symptoms in Humans 

  • Cough 
  • Fever or Chills 
  • Shortness of Breath 
  • Chest or Back Pain 
  • Feeling Very Tired 
  • Skin Sores

Symptoms in Pets

  • Skin Sores (especially on the face or paws)
  • Coughing or Wheezing
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Unexplained Limping
  • Difficulty Seeing
  • Loss of Appetite or Weight Loss

Blastomycosis FAQs

  1. I go to the Willow River near Boardman frequently; do I need to get tested?
  2. Is there anything I can do to reduce my risk of infection?
  3. Can I test the soil at my home?
  4. How is Blastomycosis treated?
  5. How many cases have been detected?

Comments

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One response to “Rare fungal infections reported around Willow River”

  1. Barb Wetzel Avatar
    Barb Wetzel

    Thanks, Greg, for this very important info & news re: ‘Blasto.’ I believe it was first identified along the Wis. River in Vilas County after middle school environmental ed group explored the river. Take this warning seriously but thankfully more physicians are knowledgeable about it, better than in 1980s when they had to search far & wide to identify & treat it. Several friends had to put their dogs down because the treatment made them suffer too much. More sad was our plumber who contracted it when working in crawl spaces & he was already dealing with Agent Orange lung cancer. Maybe this is more than anyone wants to know:(( It’s as insidious as Lyme.