WEB EXCLUSIVE: CDC warns students about outbreak

CDC warns students about outbreak

The D.C. Public Health Department told GW Student Health Friday that students who vacationed in Acapulco, Mexico, during Spring Break may have contracted the respiratory illness acute pulmonary histoplasmosis.

Student Health Medical Director Isabella Goldenberg said the health department asked GW to compile a list of students who stayed at the Calinda Beach Hotel in March after the Center for Disease Control and Prevention began investigating an outbreak of the illness.

Symptoms of histoplasmosis, caused by inhalation of soil fungus, include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain and headache, according to the CDC Web site.

Goldenberg said several GW students who went to Mexico on Spring Break have come to Student Health, and two cases resemble histoplasmosis but are not confirmed. Blood tests can indicate presence of the illness, she said.

“In people that are healthy it is a very minimal problem,” Goldenberg said. “If you’re immune system is compromised, then you can have a serious problem.”

She said chemotherapy or other medical treatment or conditions could weaken the immune system and make a person more susceptible to histoplasmosis, but the disease is not fatal.

“For public health purposes it’s important to make everybody aware,” Goldenberg said, emphasizing the danger for those whose immune systems may be compromised.

The CDC will study the causes and impacts of this outbreak and how to prevent future similar situations from occurring, she said.

-Kate Stepan

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