Man Diagnosed With Rare Fungal Infection That Killed His Dog Last Year

September 23, 2019 Updated: September 23, 2019

A Minnesota man contracted a rare fungal infection that killed his dog last year, doctors told him.

Scott Donahue, who lives in rural Park Rapids, was diagnosed in March with blastomycosis, which killed his dog, a Labrador named Buck, who got the infection in the summer of 2018 and eventually died.

“He was put on the antifungal drug Itraconazole, but died about two months after he was diagnosed,” Donahue told the Duluth News-Tribune. “He was only about a year old and went from being 90 pounds, really strong and in good shape to a hacking cough, vomiting a clear, white foamy fluid and convulsing.”

Donahue first noticed something wrong with himself when he started coughing a lot and his temperature started rising.

After several days, he went to a clinic and was given antibiotics. About six days later, he advised his son to call an ambulance.

The diagnosis was eventually revealed to be the same infection that killed Buck.

“I don’t know where I contracted it,” he said. “I work at a parts store, and I’m not around soil. I hadn’t been down to my dock for a long time because of the snow, and I quit boating in September. ”

Donahue was on a ventilator a few times because he couldn’t breathe on his own and underwent several surgeries, but his health has improved since mid-June. He was told to take an antifungal drug for a year.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reached out to Donahue, asking him about where he’d been and trying to figure out how he might have contracted the disease.

Malia Ireland, an epidemiologist at the state Department of Health, said there have been 145 cases reported in animals this year, a 35 percent increase from the same time last year, and there has been one human case reported in Hubbard County, both this year and last year. Park Rapids is in Hubbard County.

According to the CDC, anyone can get blastomycosis if they live in an area where it lives in the environment.

“People who participate in outdoor activities that expose them to wooded areas (such as forestry work, hunting, and camping) in these areas may be at higher risk for getting blastomycosis. People who have weakened immune systems may be more likely to develop severe blastomycosis than people who are otherwise healthy,” it stated.

Blastomycosis cannot spread between people or animals, the agency said.

“Pets, particularly dogs, can get blastomycosis, but it is not contagious between animals and people. The symptoms of blastomycosis in animals are similar to the symptoms in humans,” it stated. “If you are concerned about your pet’s risk of getting blastomycosis or if you think that your pet has blastomycosis, please talk to a veterinarian.”

It added, “There is no vaccine to prevent blastomycosis, and it may not be possible to completely avoid being exposed to the fungus that causes blastomycosis in areas where it is common in the environment. People who have weakened immune systems may want to consider avoiding activities that involve disrupting soil in these areas.”

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