Isolation of Blastomyces dermatitidis in soil associated with a large outbreak of blastomycosis in Wisconsin

N Engl J Med. 1986 Feb 27;314(9):529-34. doi: 10.1056/NEJM198602273140901.


In investigating six cases of blastomycosis in two school groups that had separately visited an environmental camp in northern Wisconsin in June 1984, we identified a large outbreak of the disease and isolated Blastomyces dermatitidis from soil at a beaver pond near the camp. Of 89 elementary-school children and 10 adults from the two groups, 48 (51 percent) of the 95 evaluated in September had blastomycosis. Of the cases, 26 (54 percent) were symptomatic (the median incubation period was 45 days; range, 21 to 106 days). No cases were identified in 10 groups that visited the camp two weeks before or after these two groups. A review of camp itineraries, a questionnaire survey, and environmental investigation showed that blastomycosis occurred in two of four groups that visited a beaver pond and in none of eight groups that did not. Walking on the beaver lodge (P = 0.008) and picking up items from its soil (P = 0.05) were associated with illness. Cultures of soil from the beaver lodge and decomposed wood near the beaver dam yielded B. dermatitidis. We conclude that B. dermatitidis in the soil can be a reservoir for human infection.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Blastomyces / isolation & purification*
  • Blastomycosis / epidemiology
  • Blastomycosis / etiology*
  • Camping
  • Child
  • Disease Outbreaks* / epidemiology
  • Disease Reservoirs
  • Ecology
  • Epidemiologic Methods
  • Humans
  • Lung Diseases, Fungal / epidemiology
  • Lung Diseases, Fungal / etiology*
  • Rodentia
  • Soil Microbiology*
  • Weather
  • Wisconsin