Health alert for church mission trips to El Salvador

The Center for Disease Control in the US has issued a report concerning incidents of the disease histoplasmosis among church groups which had traveled to El Salvador on mission trips. Half of 33 travelers on recent church trips from Pennsylvania and Virginia studied by the CDC came down with the disease, and six required hospitalization. Histoplasmosis is a fungal disease found throughout the world and acquired from inhaling dust containing histoplasma capsulatum spores. The infection can cause a mild flulike illness and can result in loss of lung capacity.

The CDC had these cautions:
Persons in areas of endemic histoplasmosis who perform certain jobs or activities, such as construction and farming, are at risk for acquiring histoplasmosis (10). Travel clinics and organizers of group travel to areas of endemic histoplasmosis should be informed about the risk for histoplasmosis among travelers with potential exposure to H. capsulatum. Clinicians should consider a diagnosis of histoplasmosis when evaluating a patient who has acute febrile respiratory illness and has traveled to an area in which histoplasmosis is endemic. Clinicians also should inquire about the patient's activities in the area of endemic disease. ...Travelers to areas of endemic histoplasmosis who visit caves or areas with high concentrations of bird or bat excrement, or who perform dust-generating activities, should consider using personal protective equipment (e.g., respirators) and dust-suppression strategies (e.g., keeping surfaces wet) to reduce their potential exposure to H. capsulatum.

So if you are one of those readers of this blog who are going on a trip to do volunteer work in El Salvador, keep this health information in mind.


Alexandryna said…
Gracias por la informacion.
Anonymous said…
Interesting how this comes at a time when all those pesky church groups are organizing election delegations. (Perhaps Lutherans are especially at risk?)
walrus said…
We've hosted mission groups here in El Salvador for over 5 years now and our experience has been that upper respiratory infections is the main problem that groups face. Everyone is worried about stomach problems and the big D but in reality it is the "gripe" that causes the most frequent problem. The pollution in the city and also the dust during the dry season make it hard to avoid sometimes. Visitors with a history of asthma need to be sure to bring their inhalers and other meds.

The most dangerous thing that mission groups do is spend their free day at the beach. Visitors don't die as a result of the violence here, which so many are afraid of, but they drown in the strong Pacific undertow, which they are not afraid of. Good info Tim, feliz navidad.
Anonymous said…
My chronic ear infections may be at least partially the result of a case of gripe contracted during a delegation in 1990. My eardrum almost imploded on the flights back and was left scarred.

A few years ago, I started developing ear infections that result in:

Disgusting discharge
"glue ear"

The discharge resulted in a hole in said eardrum. I now need to plug up my ear before every shower to avoid getting water in the inner ear. Over the summer, I fell down at the beach and developed a really nasty infection.

Oh yeah, getting water in my ear at La Libertad in 1990 also contributed to the problems on the flights home.