Health experts warn hunters about dangerous fungus in Wisconsin woodlands

LA CROSSE, Wis. (WKBT) – Health experts are warning hunters about a fungal infection they could catch while out in Wisconsin’s forests.

Blastomycosis is a dangerous respiratory fungus that develops when a person inhales spores of Blastomyces dermatitidus.

Wisconsin has the highest rates of infection in the United States.

10 to 40 people out of every 100,000 are infected every year.

The fungus grows like mold, often along the banks of waterways.

“Up in the northern part of the state, people like to hike and hunt in those areas,” said Dr. Bruce Klein, a UW Health physician who has been studying blastomycosis for nearly 40 years. “Those areas, particularly when they get wet and moist after rains, in the areas that are swampy, this is an area where the fungus likes to grow.”

Symptoms can pop up anywhere from three weeks to several months after exposure.

Symptoms include a high fever, cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain.

Advanced infections include a skin rash.

If caught early, the infection can be treated without hospitalization.