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At least two Boy Scout campers who returned from a recent trip with fevers, chills and a cough have been hospitalized for exposure to a rare and unusual disease, histoplasmosis or caver's disease, linked to bird and bat droppings found in the soil, spurring involvement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

St. Francisville resident Emiley Bonano has been battling — a condition caused by inhaling a fungus found in bird and bat waste — since she traveled to with her little brother’s Boy Scout troop in early November.

She became sick with flu-like symptoms about a week after their return and went to the doctor, but didn’t think a recent camping trip significant enough to mention as a possible cause for her unrelenting symptoms.

Emiley’s family spent weeks in and out of emergency rooms trying to pinpoint the cause of the 16-year-old’s illness. Finally, a doctor saw unusual white spots covering the teenager’s lungs in an X-ray and asked whether she had spent much time outdoors recently.

Emiley’s mom, Michelle Duos, said Thursday that her daughter has been hospitalized since Nov. 21, completing an intensive week-long round of intravenous medication that will be followed by three months of an oral drug to help with symptoms.

The condition is so severe she’s been hooked up to an oxygen machine and likely will not return to school until next year.

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Update:  The Istrouma Area Council of Boy Scouts of America, along with the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH), have closed a campsite on Avondale Scout Reservation to investigate cases of a disease that hospitalized two campers, sparking the involvement of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Louisiana State Epidemiologist Raoult Ratard, speaking for LDH, tells WAFB at least 15 campers may have been exposed to histoplasmosis, a disease spread through exposure to soil contaminated with bat or bird droppings.

Histoplasmosis is not contagious; it cannot be transmitted from an infected person or animal to another person and infection does not always result in illness. Symptoms, when present, usually begin three to 17 days post-exposure and range from mild conditions requiring no treatment to severe systemic illness which are frequently fatal when untreated, according to a report provided by LDH. The illness is typically flu-like, with symptoms such as fever, cough, fatigue, chills, headache, chest pain, and body aches.

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Unfortunate, but not a particularly dangerous risk, nor one that can be reasonably avoided.

Look at info from the CDC and the Mayo Clinic and you'll see that...

* Histoplasmosis is not rare, and that most people exposed to it never even realize it 

* Histoplasmosis is transmitted by breathing in fungal spores that come from bird or bat droppings, so exposure is more likely to happen in local parks, fields, farms, or even your own back yard than at a scout camp (though birds and bats poop there too...)

* Most people who get sick from histoplasmosis exposure are farmers and landscapers (not people engaged in outdoor recreation)

* You can't really eliminate risk of exposure to histoplasmosis 

* It's not something that the scout leaders should or could have avoided or prevented

* Histoplasmosis is most common in the midwest and the south




* CDC:  https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/histoplasmosis/index.html 

* Mayo Clinic:  https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/histoplasmosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20373495

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