Blastomycosis Outbreak Linked to Michigan Paper Mill

Blastomycosis, an infection caused by a fungus called Blastomyces, is a serious disease that is associated with a fungus that grows in moist soil and decomposing matter such as wood and leaves. Blastomycosis infection can be acquired by individuals through inhalation of fungal spores present in the atmosphere. There is no transmission of Blastomycosis between individuals or between animals and humans.[0] According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Blastomycosis is a fungal infection caused by Blastomyces, which thrives in the environment, particularly in damp soil and decaying organic material such as wood or leaves. The majority of its presence is observed in the Midwest and South regions, with a specific concentration around the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and the Great Lakes.[1]

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that individuals can acquire blastomycosis by inhaling tiny fungal spores from the air, typically after engaging in soil-disturbing activities. After entering the lungs, the spores can undergo a metamorphosis into yeast due to the warmth and humidity of the body. These yeast cells may either remain in the lungs or travel to various organs, skin, bones, joints, brain, and spinal cord through the bloodstream.[2]

While most individuals who inhale blastomyces spores remain unaffected, a few may exhibit signs similar to those of common respiratory illnesses such as the flu, cold, or other ailments. These symptoms include fever, night sweats, coughing, muscle aches, joint pain, chest pain, and fatigue.[3] Individuals who become ill may experience a range of symptoms including coughing (which may include blood), elevated body temperature, discomfort in the chest, breathing difficulties, excessive sweating during the night, feelings of exhaustion, loss of weight, muscle pain, and joint discomfort.[4] Individuals who exhibit these symptoms are advised to get in touch with their healthcare provider and inquire if testing for blastomycosis is necessary.[5]

The local health department has identified ninety-three cases of blastomycosis, either confirmed or probable, in the counties of Delta and Menominee in Michigan. The cases are thought to be linked to a paper mill located in Escanaba town.[6] An ongoing investigation into an outbreak of blastomycosis at the Billerud paper mill in Escanaba is being conducted by local, state, and federal health and occupational safety authorities.[0] The Michigan Economic Development Corp reports that the Billerud mill is the primary economic force and biggest employer in the northern region of the state, with close to 900 staff members.[2]

Only approximately one or two cases per 100,000 population are reported annually by states that monitor blastomycosis. The CDC reported that between 1990 and 2010, only 1,216 deaths in the United States were attributed to blastomycosis, indicating that fatalities from this disease are infrequent. “Roughly a dozen” employees have been hospitalized “to one degree or another” as a result of the disease, including at least one employee who has required hospitalization for weeks, according to the president of the United Steel Workers Local 21 union that represents about 670 of the mill's employees.[3]

The source of the fungus responsible for this outbreak has yet to be determined by officials.[4] According to them, the Upper Peninsula environment commonly harbors the fungus.[4] Billerud Escanaba Mill Operations Vice President Brian Peterson said in a statement from the health department, “Although the source of the infection has not been established, we continue to take this matter very seriously and are following recommendations from health and government officials and implementing numerous, proactive steps to protect the health and safety of our employees, contractors and visitors.[3]

0. “Michigan: Blastomycosis outbreak associated with the Escanaba Billerud Paper Mill – Outbreak News Today” Outbreak News Today, 11 Apr. 2023,

1. “Almost 100 confirmed or probable cases of rare fungal infection linked to Michigan paper mill, health officials say” CNN, 10 Apr. 2023,

2. “Fungal infection outbreak affects 90+ workers at Escanaba paper mill” Detroit Free Press, 8 Apr. 2023,

3. “Blastomyces fungus outbreak hits Michigan paper factory” Daily Mail, 10 Apr. 2023,

4. “Rare fungal outbreak up to 93 likely cases among paper mill workers in Escanaba” WDIV ClickOnDetroit, 10 Apr. 2023,

5. “Public Health Gives Update On Fungal Outbreak At Escanaba Paper Mill”, 8 Apr. 2023,

6. “Investigation into source of fungal infections among U.P. paper mill workers continues” Michigan Radio, 11 Apr. 2023,

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 0 comments