Blastomycosis fungus

Blastomycosis fungus grows in soil. Alyssa Kelly

A warning to campers and hunters this fall: Blastomycosis cases are still popping up in Minnesota.

You can't see it, but that doesn't mean it's not there — a potentially deadly disease affecting our furry friends that many don't know about. Blastomycosis, a fungal disease most common in dogs, is spreading in Minnesota, with more than 180 cases this year, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. The fungus grows in soil, which if disrupted will release fungal spores into the air, which we can then breathe into our bodies.

"A lot of people take their dogs on water activities or hiking in the wilderness and dogs like to disrupt soil. They like to bury their nose into soil and kind of get in there, so that's why a lot of dogs are exposed," said Sanford Health infectious disease doctor Nerine Vincent.

Dogs aren't the only ones that can get it. According to the Department of Health there are also more than 60 cases in humans this year, but it's not contagious.

"You can't get it from a dog, you can't get it from anyone else — you can only get it from the soil itself," said Vincent.

50% of those who get the disease don't have any symptoms, but the other 50% can experience a range from a mild kind of pneumonia to a full-blown lung disease called ARDS (acute respiratory distress syndrome) and even death, Vincent said.

In 2006, a man in Jamestown, N.D., nearly died from the disease.

Symptoms for canines are similar, including coughing, fever and skin lesions, giving dog owners quite the scare.

"I want to know like how can I prevent my dog from getting it and how can I prevent me from getting it," said dog owner Morgan Ostendorf.

While it's not common in North Dakota, those traveling to the lakes country will need to be aware if there are any outbreaks where they're going, because there's no official test for the fungus.

"In terms of recreational activities and work exposure, try to not disrupt soil. That's the only way you can really avoid it," said Vincent.

For more information on symptoms and treatments, visit this website: https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/blastomycosis/index.html

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