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Experts raise concerns over prevalence of potentially deadly fungal disease: 'These results challenge routine assumptions about the epidemiology and ecology of this disease'

"Our findings … align with a growing body of evidence."

"Our findings ... align with a growing body of evidence."

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A new study indicates that a rare but potentially fatal fungal infection may be more widespread than previously thought, the University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reported.

What is happening?

The authors of the study, titled "Using Insurance Claims Data to Estimate Blastomycosis Incidence, Vermont, USA, 2011–2020," found that blastomycosis, a fungal disease found in moist soil and decaying organic matter, is occurring as often in Vermont as it is in states where it is considered to be endemic, such as Arkansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The study was published in the scientific journal Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Blastomycosis can cause symptoms similar to those of pneumonia and result in severe illness, with death rates as high as 22%. Most people who breathe in the spores do not get sick, however.

Why is this concerning?

"Our findings, based on the most comprehensive assessment of blastomycosis in Vermont to date, align with a growing body of evidence suggesting that the burden of endemic blastomycosis is greater than commonly appreciated," the study's authors wrote. "These results challenge routine assumptions about the epidemiology and ecology of this disease and reflect a need for future studies."

Blastomycosis is not the only disease that has been recently found to be spreading beyond its previous borders. Though the authors of this study did not directly link their findings to changing weather patterns, authors of other studies on spreading diseases have done so.

One 2022 study predicted that 58% of all known pathogens that affect humans will be made worse by global heating. A rise in diseases such as dengue fever, valley fever, and many others have been linked to the continued overheating of our planet — largely a result of the use of dirty energy sources including gas and oil.

What is being done about it?

The authors of the study on blastomycosis indicated that more research is needed to explain the uptick of the disease.

In order to prevent the continued spread of diseases that have been directly linked to the overheating of our planet, it is vital that we as a society move beyond dirty energy sources and embrace clean, renewable sources of energy such as wind and solar.

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