Blastomycosis in the Mountainous Region of Northeast Tennessee

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Background: In the United States, cases of human blastomycosis are largely described in defined geographic areas, with Mississippi reporting the highest prevalence of disease in the southeast region. The infection is uncommonly recognized in mountainous areas, and our previous report of blastomycosis in the southern Appalachian mountains of northeast Tennessee appeared to be an exception to the usual disease distribution. Methods: Our current retrospective study was undertaken to determine whether blastomycosis has persisted as an endemic fungal infection in our northeast Tennessee geographic area and whether epidemiologic features have changed over a 25-year time period. Results: Results show that clinical aspects of the disease have remained fairly constant with few exceptions; mass-type pulmonary lesions have become more common, and itraconazole has emerged as the therapy of choice. Most notably, however, are the observations that blastomycosis persists as a major endemic fungal infection in our mountain region, more than half of all cases occurring during the period from 1996 to 2005 were found in a core area centered on two counties, Washington and Unicoi; three of five counties surrounding the core counties experienced rate increases compared to our previous study. Conclusions: These findings suggest a further expansion of this endemic fungal disease beyond the core region.