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Mold lingers as a reminder of 2004 hurricanes   PDF  Print  E-mail 
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Monday, 07 February 2005


February 7, 2005 

Sebring, Florida -- He thought he had the flu -- but what Ray Ostlund really had was a problem caused by mold.

Medical officials say the malady, commonly referred to as "mold poisoning" can cause constant irritation to the bronchial tubes.

He reportedly picked up the spores from the office of his business Dual Neon, which sustained significant damage when the hurricanes hit Highlands County.

Health officials said in order for a formal diagnosis of mold infection, people need to be seen by a pulmonary specialist.

One mold infection, blastomycosis, is caused by inhaling microscopic particles known as spores that are produced by fungus.

The infection may be limited to the lungs but also may involve the skin and/or bones.  In its most severe form, the infection can spread throughout the body and involve many organ systems.

Experts say that once inhaled, the spores can lodge in the lungs and cause a localized inflammation.

Fortunately, the disease does not spread from one person to another.

Like Ostlund, people may believe they simply have a cold.

In the early stages, symptoms may include a dry cough, fever, heavy sweating, fatigue, and a general feeling of ill health.

If not corrected, the malady can get much worse. Officials said that in time, the irritation can cause the bronchial tubes to such a degree that they then will not permit the air to go into the lungs.

That ultimately could lead to respiratory failure.

In about a quarter of the cases, only the lungs are affected. As the disease progresses, small lesions form in the lungs causing the air sacs deep within the lungs to break down and form small cavities.

In another 35 percent of the cases the disease involves both the lungs and the skin. Bumps can develop on the skin, gradually becoming small, white, crusted blisters.

The blisters break open, creating abscesses that do not heal. Approximately 19 percent of infected people have skin sores without infection in the lungs.

The remaining approximately 20 percent of the infected population has blastomycosis that has spread or disseminated to other systems of the body.

Symptoms may include pain and lesions on one or more bones, the male genitalia, and/or parts of the central nervous system.  The liver, spleen, lymph nodes, heart, adrenal glands, and digestive system also may be infected.

Although the destruction caused by the hurricanes, coupled with water intrusion into buildings, left optimum conditions for the growth of mold, Highlands County Environmental Health Director Roger Christopher said he was not aware of any widespread mold problem.

Director of the Highlands County Health Department Dr. Paula Thaqi agreed that she also had not been made aware of any such widespread problem. However, she noted that mold poisoning or mold-related problems are not reportable diseases -- meaning doctors would not be required to inform health officials of those cases.

"There are people that have chronic lung diseases or asthma which is being exacerbated by the mold -- but again, that is not a reportable disease," she said.

As for Ostlund, his offices at Duall Neon have had a fix of sorts.

In an effort to battle the problem, Ostlund's sons constructed a new office on the outside of the building, to keep his dad out of the area and away from the mold.


Last Updated (Monday, 07 February 2005)

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