The Center for Disease Control in the US has issued a report concerning incidents of the disease histoplasmosis among church groups which had traveled to El Salvador on mission trips. Half of 33 travelers on recent church trips from Pennsylvania and Virginia studied by the CDC came down with the disease, and six required hospitalization. Histoplasmosis is a fungal disease found throughout the world and acquired from inhaling dust containing histoplasma capsulatum spores. The infection can cause a mild flulike illness and can result in loss of lung capacity.
The CDC had these cautions:
Persons in areas of endemic histoplasmosis who perform certain jobs or activities, such as construction and farming, are at risk for acquiring histoplasmosis (10). Travel clinics and organizers of group travel to areas of endemic histoplasmosis should be informed about the risk for histoplasmosis among travelers with potential exposure to H. capsulatum. Clinicians should consider a diagnosis of histoplasmosis when evaluating a patient who has acute febrile respiratory illness and has traveled to an area in which histoplasmosis is endemic. Clinicians also should inquire about the patient's activities in the area of endemic disease. ...Travelers to areas of endemic histoplasmosis who visit caves or areas with high concentrations of bird or bat excrement, or who perform dust-generating activities, should consider using personal protective equipment (e.g., respirators) and dust-suppression strategies (e.g., keeping surfaces wet) to reduce their potential exposure to H. capsulatum.
So if you are one of those readers of this blog who are going on a trip to do volunteer work in El Salvador, keep this health information in mind.