U.S. CDC to assist the DR Ministry of Health with investigation of histoplasmosis outbreak

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was request assistance by the Ministry of Health of the Dominican Republic after 17 construction workers from the Taveras Bao Dam (Santiago Province) presented at a hospital with severe respiratory distress. Five cases required intensive care unit admission and three have died.  The workers had recently cleaned out a tunnel filled with bat guano in the weeks preceding illness onset.

The DR MoH requested the assistance of the CDC to support the in-depth investigation and monitoring of this disease outbreak.  The CDC has deployed a rapid response team consisting of medical epidemiologists and environmental health experts.

The suspected disease is Histoplasmosis, a fungal disease that lives in the environment, particularly in soil that contains large amounts of bird or bat droppings.  Those hospitalized are currently being treated with antifungal medications.  Histoplasmosis can become severe in individuals with weakened immune systems (for example people who have HIV/AIDS) and is not spread person-to-person.