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News From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
April 23/30, 2014

Beware of Bamboo Bonfires

Author Affiliations

Copyright 2014 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved. Applicable FARS/DFARS Restrictions Apply to Government Use.

JAMA. 2014;311(16):1604. doi:10.1001/jama.2014.3893

A bonfire made with bamboo from a grove where blackbirds roosted may have played a role in a 2011 histoplasmosis outbreak.

A public health investigation into the outbreak focused on a family gathering of 19 relatives in a small town in northeastern Arkansas. The host family’s home was located on a quarter-acre of land with a wooded area that included the bamboo grove.

Red-winged blackbirds were known to roost in the grove. During annual migrations, local residents told investigators there were so many birds as to “darken the sky.” Bird and bat droppings are a common source of the Histoplasma capsulatum fungus, which causes histoplasmosis.