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Outbreak of histoplasmosis among employees in a paper factory--Michigan, 1993.

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Abstract

In December 1993, four reported cases of histoplasmosis among employees in a Michigan pulp paper factory prompted an investigation. A cohort of employees was surveyed to identify additional cases. A case of acute histoplasmosis was defined as an influenza-like illness in a plant employee with the onset of illness during October or November 1993 and laboratory evidence of recent infection with Histoplasma capsulatum. Among the 96 employees surveyed, 18 persons met the case definition; all of these had illness onset during the last week of October in 1993. The attack rate among maintenance employees (16 of 53 [30%]) was much greater than that among nonmaintenance employees (2 of 43 [5%]) (relative risk = 6.5; 95% confidence interval = 1.6 to 26.7; P = 0.003). On October 22, a dry, windy day, one maintenance worker swept bird guano, approximately 10 cm deep, from an adjacent roof < 20 m from the maintenance building. The disturbance of the bird guano was the likely event which caused this outbreak. H. capsulatum remains an important pathogen among immunocompetent hosts. We recommended that the plant authorities (i) discourage birds from roosting at the facility and (ii) use safe procedures for the cleanup and disposal of soil contaminated with bird droppings.

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