Public Awareness Low for Invasive Fungal Diseases

Computer illustration of fruiting bodies (conidiophores) and hyphae of the fungus Aspergillus fumigatus. A. fumigatus is a widely distributed saprophyte which grows on household dust, soil, and decaying vegetable matter, including stale food, hay and grain. Humans and animals constantly inhale numerous conidia of this fungus. A. fumigatus can cause a number of disorders in people with compromised immune function or other lung diseases, including allergy and the serious lung disease aspergillosis. This fungus can also spread to the brain, kidneys, liver and skin.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a study to assess public familiarity of invasive fungal infections.

HealthDay News — More than two-thirds of individuals have never heard of any of 6 invasive fungal diseases, according to research published in the Sept. 25 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Kaitlin Benedict, M.P.H., from the CDC in Atlanta, and colleagues conducted a nationally representative online survey to assess whether participants had heard of six invasive fungal diseases to guide public health educational efforts.

The researchers found low awareness, which varied by disease, from 4.1 percent for blastomycosis, 5.1 percent for aspergillosis, 7.5 percent for histoplasmosis, 7.6 percent for coccidioidomycosis, 9.0 percent for cryptococcosis, and 24.6 percent for candidiasis. Overall, 68.9 percent of respondents had never heard of any of the diseases. Those who were aware of one fungal disease were more likely to be aware of others. There were associations seen for female sex, higher education, and increased number of prescription medications with awareness.

“These first nationally representative estimates of public fungal disease awareness demonstrate major gaps, indicating a need for continued efforts to strengthen education messages, particularly for groups at higher risk and those with lower educational attainment,” the authors write.

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