Stories From the Field
Illness tracked at the Iowa governor's mansion
In January 2008, 9 cases of lung disease were identified in office workers in Des Moines. These workers developed symptoms similar to those of influenza: fever, chills, muscle aches, and cough. The CDC assisted the county and state health departments in investigating the source of this outbreak, through conducting environmental sampling to find the source. Workers were diagnosed with histoplasmosis, a fungal infection caused by inhaling the spores of the fungus Histoplasma capsulatum, which is commonly found in Iowa and the Midwest.
It turned out that all the sick individuals had attended a Christmas party at the Iowa governor's mansion, a 100-year-old building which was undergoing a roof replacement. The construction debris was being pushed down a chute near the front door, creating a dust cloud. The office workers who later became ill had unloaded food for the party, making numerous trips from their cars through the dust cloud, which was probably loaded with fungal spores.
CDC also assisted the state health department in providing prevention messages to the construction crew. NIOSH has produced materials ["Histoplasmosis: preventing workers at risk"] which were provided to the crew at the Mansion site. Exposure to histoplasmosis spores can be prevented with correct precautions.