Epidemiology of Histoplasmosis Outbreaks, United States, 1938-2013

Emerg Infect Dis. 2016 Mar;22(3):370-8. doi: 10.3201/eid2203.151117.


Histoplasmosis has been described as the most common endemic mycosis in the United States. However, histoplasmosis is not nationally notifiable. Its presumed geographic distribution is largely derived from skin test surveys performed during the 1940s, and information about its local features comes primarily from outbreak investigations. We conducted a literature review to assess epidemiologic features of histoplasmosis outbreaks in the United States. During 1938-2013, a total of 105 outbreaks involving 2,850 cases were reported in 26 states and the territory of Puerto Rico. Common exposure settings were chicken coops and buildings or other structures undergoing renovation or demolition. Birds, bats, or their droppings were reported to be present in 77% of outbreak settings, and workplace exposures were reported in 41% of outbreaks. The continued occurrence of histoplasmosis outbreaks, particularly work-related ones involving known disturbance of bird or bat droppings, highlights the need to increase awareness of the disease.

Keywords: Histoplasma; United States; bats; birds; disease outbreaks; environment; epidemiology; fungi; histoplasmosis; mycoses.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Outbreaks / history*
  • Female
  • Histoplasmosis / epidemiology*
  • Histoplasmosis / history*
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Occupational Exposure
  • Puerto Rico / epidemiology
  • United States / epidemiology