Histoplasmosis is caused by the organism Histo-plasma capsulatum, which is a single budding yeast at body temperature, and a mold at room temperature. The fungus is spread by airborne spores from soil contaminated with bird droppings and is commonly found in the Mississippi River Valley.

The fungal infection enters the body when a child breathes in spores of the fungus from dried bird droppings. In addition to the lungs, the fungus may occasionally invade other parts of the body. Birds (especially chickens), bats, dogs, cats, rats, skunks, opossums, foxes, and other animals also can get the disease and may play a role in spreading it. Outbreaks may occur in groups with common exposure to bird or bat droppings, or recently disturbed soil in chicken coops, caves, or elsewhere. Person-to-person spread of the disease does not occur. Past infection with histoplasmosis usually reduces chances of getting the disease again, but permanent immunity does not occur.

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