1 dead in fungal outbreak at paper mill

Health officials are still searching for the source of a rare fungal infection at a Michigan paper mill that has infected nearly 100 people and caused one death.

The death occurred in a contractor who worked at the Escanaba Billerud Paper Mill in the state's Upper Peninsula. As of April 15, local health officials have identified 21 confirmed cases and 76 probable cases of blastomycosis among workers, contractors or visitors to the plant, according to The New York Times. Of the 97 people with symptoms, 12 have required hospitalization.

The rare fungal infection is caused by Blastomyces dermatitidis, a fungus found in soil and decaying wood. People contract the infection by breathing on spores from the air.

The paper mill, which employs 830 people, temporarily closed April 13. The plant's owner, Sweden-based paper company Billerud, said it will keep the facility closed for three weeks to conduct a deep cleaning, inspect ventilation systems and test raw materials coming to the mill, according to the Times

Local health officials are working with the paper mill, HHS, CDC and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health to investigate the outbreak, according to an April 14 news release.

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