What is Histoplasmosis?
Histoplasmosis is an infectious disease caused by inhaling the spores of a fungus called Histoplasma capsulatum. Histoplasmosis is not contagious; it cannot be transmitted from an infected person or animal to someone else.
Histoplasmosis primarily affects a person’s lungs, and its symptoms vary greatly. The vast majority of infected people have no apparent ill effects or experience symptoms so mild they don’t seek medical attention and may not even realize that their illness was histoplasmosis.
If symptoms do occur, they start between 3 and 17 days after being exposed and will appear as a mild, flu-like respiratory illness and has a combination of symptoms including fever, chest pain, dry or nonproductive cough, headache, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, joint and muscle pains, chills, and hoarseness.
How is Histoplasmosis Diagnosed?
Histoplasmosis can be diagnosed by identifying H. capsulatum in samples of a person’s tissues or secretion, testing the patient’s blood serum for antibodies to the microorganism, and testing urine, serum, or other body fluids for the H. capsulatum antigen. On occasion, diagnosis may require a transbronchial biopsy.
Who can get Histoplasmosis?
Anyone working at a job or present near activities where material contaminated with H. capsulatum becomes airborne can develop histoplasmosis if enough spores are inhaled. After an exposure occurs, how ill a person becomes varies greatly and most likely depends on the number of spores inhaled and the person’s age, and how susceptible they are to the disease.
Few people will develop symptoms after low-level exposure to materials contaminated with H. capsulatum spores. However, longer periods of exposure to higher concentrations of airborne contaminated materials increase a person’s risk of developing histoplasmosis.
Occupations at Risk
- Bridge Inspector or Painter
- Chimney Cleaner
- Construction Worker
- Demolition Worker
- HVAC Service Worker
- Microbiology Laboratory Worker
- Pest Control Worker
- Restorer of Historic or Abandoned Buildings
- Spelunker (cave explorer)
What can be done to reduce the risk of H. capsulatum?
The biggest thing that can be done to reduce exposure to H. capsulatum is to exclude a colony of bats or a flock of birds from a building. The best practice is to prevent the accumulation of manure in the first place. When a colony of bats or a flock of birds is discovered roosting in a building, immediate action should be taken to exclude the intruders by sealing all entry points. Any measures that might harm or kill bats or birds should be avoided and calling in a professional to help or fix the problem is always recommended!
Before exclusion of a colony of bats or a flock of birds, it is important to give attention to the possibility of flightless young may be present and unable to leave. This is especially important when considering the exclusion of bats in the United States as they are protected animals.
If a colony of bats is allowed to live in a building for an extended amount of time, manure will accumulate and create a health risk for anyone who enters the roosting area and disturbs the material. Once a roosting site is discovered in a building an exclusion plan should be made and the extent of the contamination should be determined and discussed.
Removing the bat manure is not always the next step. Sometimes simply leaving the material alone if it is in a location where no human activity is likely, maybe the best course of action.
We offer nice and friendly bat removal through a process called exclusion. Exclusion is where the bats are able to come out of your home and not get back in without hurting or harming them.
Dealing with a bat infestation may be one of the most difficult problems when owning a home but how and when a person should deal with the bat guano, can also be a difficult decision.
With a properly insulated and ventilated home, you’ll be able to manage and mitigate excess heat and humidity more effectively and help extend the life of your home.
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If I Found A Bat In My Home, Should I Test It?
Yes, the CDC recommends that you should always test bats that are in your house and that you catch.
Do I Need A Rabies Shot?
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) is very clear when addressing rabies. “Recent data suggest that transmission of the rabies virus can occur from minor, seemingly unimportant, or unrecognized bites from bats… Rabies post-exposure prophylaxis is recommended for all persons with [a possible] bite, scratch, or mucous membrane exposure to a bat unless the bat is available for testing and is negative for evidence of rabies.”
If the bat was in a room with a child, a person asleep, a person intoxicated, or someone mentally impaired, they should seek medical attention. Post-exposure rabies shots may save your life, but the shots are very expensive so it is important to get the answer right!
If you can safely collect the bat you’ve come in contact with and submit it for rabies diagnosis, you may not need post-exposure rabies shots. To test a bat for rabies virus, its brain must be intact. The bat can be dead or alive when you collect it, but it will be euthanized for the test. You must preserve the bat in a container until it can be picked up or dropped off for testing. If the bat is dead, it should be stored in a cool place to prevent decomposition.
Is Bat Guano Dangerous?
In most cases, you can sweep up and clean bat guano without any cause for concern, however, we always recommend wearing protective equipment such as gloves, mask, and goggles. There is a small chance you can come into contact with and contract Histoplasmosis. A small amount of bat guano should be a harmless as a few mouse droppings. Once the guano piles up, a fungus that causes histoplasmosis can start to grow, and this is when you need to be careful.
If you are going to clean up bat guano by yourself, we recommend spraying the guano with bleach or fungicide before disturbing it to help mitigate your risk. The best thing you can do is talk to a professional (like us) before attempting to clean up a large amount of bat guano first.
If you do not want to clean up bat guano, we would be more than happy to do it for you and provide our services to you!
Will My Insurance Cover The Cost Of Bat Removal Services?
As long as you don’t have a stated coverage policy excluding bats, your insurance probably allows for some sort of coverage for damages caused to the sheetrock by bats. Getting this coverage is often difficult but can be done.
If you purchased your home in the last 24 months and the infestation was not disclosed to you, the errors and omissions insurance for the real estate agent and the home inspector involved in the sale may provide coverage. Additionally, the seller of the property is often liable for the first 24 months after purchase.