Histoplasmosis and Work
This website shares information on how to prevent work-related histoplasmosis in the United States. It also shares methods people can use to protect themselves and others from exposure.
This website updates content from the NIOSH booklet Histoplasmosis — Protecting Workers at Risk, which is now archived.
People who may benefit from exploring these pages:
- Workers who may be exposed to Histoplasma
- Employers responsible for the health and safety of these workers
- Federal, state, local, and tribal public health officials
- Occupational health and safety professionals
- Environmental health consultants
Histoplasmosis is an infection caused by a fungus called Histoplasma. The fungus lives in the environment, particularly in soil that contains large amounts of bird or bat droppings. People can get histoplasmosis after breathing in the microscopic fungal spores (also known as conidia) from the air. Anyone who works with or near material contaminated with Histoplasma can develop histoplasmosis.
Although most people who breathe in the spores don’t get sick, those who do may have a fever, cough, and fatigue. Many people who get histoplasmosis will get better on their own without medication. In some people, the infection can become severe and spread from the lungs to other parts of the body such as the eyes and the lymph nodes. This is more common in people with weakened immune systems or other medical conditions.
What to do if you are exposed at your workplace
If you think you’ve been exposed to Histoplasma at work, you should contact your crew leader or supervisor and your occupational health or risk management department. If your workplace does not have these services, you should contact your local city, county, or state health department. We do not know if antifungal medication (prophylaxis) can prevent people from getting sick with histoplasmosis after a workplace exposure to Histoplasma but it can be considered for high-risk exposures. For more information about laboratory exposures to Histoplasma, please see Guidance for laboratory workers who handle Histoplasma.
What to do if you are sick
If you think you have histoplasmosis after working in an area where Histoplasma is common, report your symptoms to your crew leader or supervisor and visit a healthcare provider, if needed. Tell your healthcare provider that you work in an area where Histoplasma is common and ask to be tested for histoplasmosis.
More Histoplasmosis Resources
Minnesota Department of Health: Histoplasmosis (Histoplasma capsulatum)
Wisconsin Department of Health Services: Histoplasmosis Fact Sheet