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Histoplasmosis (hiss-toh-plaz-MOH-suhss) is a disease caused by a fungus. The disease mainly hurts your lungs. Sometimes, it hurts other organs too, in which case your HIV has progressed to AIDS. Histoplasmosis can be fatal if untreated. The fungus grows in soil and in materials that are contaminated with bat or bird droppings (feces). The fungus gets into the air when soil (that has the fungus) is disturbed. Breathing it in causes infection. However, one person infected with histoplasmosis can't "give" it to someone else. Many people don't have symptoms. If they do, symptoms include fever, chest pains, fatigue, weight loss, breathing problems, swollen lymph nodes, pneumonia-like symptoms, and a dry (nonproductive) cough.
Anyone working at a job or close to places where the fungus is in the air can get this disease. But people with HIV, especially those with lower CD4 cell counts, have a higher risk of getting mild or severe disease. People with HIV should not do activities that raise their risk, like cleaning chicken coops, disturbing soil beneath bird-roosting sites, and exploring caves. Below are some jobs and hobbies that increase your risk:
These activities involve being in sites that are likely not cleaned or tested for histoplasmosis. Talk to your doctor about how to protect yourself if you have to be near such a site. Your doctor may prescribe antifungal medications to treat a histoplasmosis infection.
Content last updated: July 01, 2011.