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Have you wondered about your risk for fungal infection? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides 10 questions you can use to understand fungal infections, assess your risk, and stay healthy.
Fungal diseases are not the first thing that come to mind when you get sick, but they are something that you and your healthcare provider need to consider. Because the symptoms of different fungal diseases (fever, cough, headache, rash, muscle aches, or joint pain) are similar to other common illnesses, diagnosis and treatment are often delayed. The more you know about fungal diseases and your potential risk, the better prepared you are to protect your health.
Ten questions that could help you find out your risk for fungal infection:
1. Where do you live? There are some areas in the United States where disease-causing fungi are common.(1) Healthcare providers see more cases of histoplasmosis in the Ohio and Mississippi River Valleys than other parts of the country. Valley fever, also called coccidioidomycosis, is found mainly in the southwestern US.
2. What types of activities are you doing? Disease-causing fungi can be found in air, dust, and soil, especially soil that contains bird or bat droppings. Activities like digging, gardening, cleaning chicken coops, and visiting caves can cause you to inhale more fungi that may cause infection.(2)
3. Are you taking any medications that affect the immune system?
Are you taking any medications that affect your immune system? Medications used to treat rheumatoid arthritis or lupus may weaken your immune system and put you at risk for fungal infection.(3)
4. Are you living with HIV/AIDS? People living with HIV/AIDS may be at risk for fungal infections. Two well-known fungal infections associated with HIV/AIDS in the United States are Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) and oral candidiasis (thrush). Internationally, C. neoformans cryptococcosis, is known to cause meningitis in people living with HIV/AIDS.(4)
5.Have you had an organ transplant within the past year? As an organ transplant patient, you may be at risk for fungal infections, especially within the first year.(5)
6.Are you receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatments? Cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy and radiation weaken your immune system and may put you at risk for fungal infections.
7.Are you a stem cell transplant patient? Stem cell transplants destroy, then rebuild, your immune system. Knowing about the potential for fungal infections may help you and your healthcare provider catch them early.(6)
8.Will you be staying in the hospital?
If you are hospitalized for an injury or illness, you may be at risk for fungal infections such as invasive candidiasis.(7) Your risk increases if you are very ill or have a weak immune system.(8)
9. Do you have flu-like symptoms that are not responding to medications? Fungal infections, especially fungal lung infections like aspergillosis, histoplasmosis, and valley fever can look like bacterial or lung infections.
10. Have you asked your healthcare provider about the possibility of a fungal infection? Fungal infections are not always on our radar. Knowing some of the things that put you at risk and mentioning them to your healthcare provider may help recognize symptoms and prevent serious illness.
It is important to remember that anyone can get a fungal infection. The more you know the better your chances of staying healthy and protecting your heath. You can learn more about the signs, symptoms and treatment of fungal infections, as well as some prevention tips by visiting CDC’s fungal website and by talking with your healthcare provider.
1. Lortholary O, Charlier C, Lebeaux D, Lecuit M, Consigny PH. Fungal infections in immunocompromised travelers. Clinical Infectious Diseases 2013;56:861-9.
2. CDC. Guidelines for Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Infected Adults and Adolescents. Recommendations from CDC, the National Institutes of Health, and the HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. MMWR 2009;58 (RR04):1-198.
3. Ali T, Kaitha S, Mahmood S, Ftesi A, Stone J, Bronze MS. Clinical use of anti-TNF therapy and increased risk of infections. Drug, healthcare and patient safety 2013;5:79-99
4. Park BJ, Wannemuehler KA, Marston BJ, Govender N, Pappas PG, Chiller TM. Estimation of the current global burden of cryptococcal meningitis among persons living with HIV/AIDS. Aids 2009;23:525-30.
5. Pappas PG, Alexander BD, Andes DR, et al. Invasive fungal infections among organ transplant recipients: results of the Transplant-Associated Infection Surveillance Network (TRANSNET). Clinical Infectious Diseases 2010;50:1101-11
6. Kontoyiannis DP, Marr KA, Park BJ, et al. Prospective surveillance for invasive fungal infections in hematopoietic stem cell transplant recipients, 2001-2006: overview of the Transplant-Associated Infection Surveillance Network (TRANSNET) Database. Clinical Infectious Diseases 2010;50:1091-100.
7. Pfaller MA, Diekema DJ. Epidemiology of invasive candidiasis: a persistent public health problem. Clin Microbiol Rev 2007;20:133-63.
8. Alangaden GJ. Nosocomial Fungal Infections: Epidemiology, Infection Control, and Prevention. Infectious Disease Clinics of North America 2011;25:201-25.