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Rare Illness in Afton

Afton teenager is one of several residents to be infected with a rare illness in recent years. Tristan Pennella, 15, was diagnosed with blastomycosis, a fungal disease.

Blastomycosis is caused by a fungus that thrives in sandy, acidic soil with decomposing organic debris, such as rotting leaves. Northern Minnesota and Wisconsin, especially areas near riverbeds, are good breeding grounds for the fungus.

It may take months for symptoms to appear after a person first comes in contact with the fungus and breathes it in. Flu-like symptoms make blastomycosis hard to diagnose and include fever, cough, fatigue and muscle aches.

About 30 cases per year have been reported in Minnesota for the past several years. Wisconsin has seen a significant jump in reported cases in the past year, increasing from 100 to 170. Dogs are the most infected by this disease.