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Risk & Prevention

Who Gets Histoplasmosis?

Anyone can get histoplasmosis, even people who are otherwise healthy.  However, infants, young children, and older people, particularly those with chronic lung disease, are at increased risk for developing severe disease.  Disseminated disease is most frequent in people who have weakened immune systems, such as people with cancer or HIV/AIDS.

Where does the Fungus Live?

Histoplasma capsulatum, the fungus that causes histoplasmosis, can be found throughout the world, but it is most common in North and Central America.  In the United States, the fungus is endemic (native and common) in the Mississippi and Ohio River Valleys.

How Can I Prevent Histoplasmosis?

There is no vaccine to prevent histoplasmosis, and it is not always possible to prevent exposure to the fungus in areas where the fungus is endemic. However, you should avoid areas with accumulations of bird or bat droppings, especially if you have a weakened immune system.  Areas with accumulations of bird or bat droppings should be cleaned up by professional companies that specialize in the removal of hazardous waste. 

Before starting a job or activity where there is a possibility of being exposed to H. capsulatum, consult the NIOSH/NCID document Histoplasmosis: Protecting Workers at Risk [PDF - 39 pages].

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