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Thailand’s leading medic warns that hollow trees may contain poisonous fungus

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A top doctor from the hospital yesterday warned the Thai population not to step into tree hollows during their search for bats because of the risk of exposure to dangerous fungal spores.

Dr Manoon Leechawengwongs, a pulmonologist at Vichaiyut Hospital in Bangkok, issued a warning on his Facebook fan page after seven out of 10 people contracted an infection called Histoplasmosis after entering a tree hollow in Nakhon Si Thammarat while searching for the bats.

He said histoplasmosis is caused by inhaling spores of Histoplasma capsulatum found in bat droppings. He said a group of villagers passed through a dense forest in Tambon Na in Thung Song district.

One of the activities was tracking down smaller false vampire bats. The bats were in a large tree called Cha Muang in the Thai language (anisoptera scaphula), which was up to 40 m high and quite old. He said the tree cavity was wide enough for one person to get into, but up to seven people can squeeze the centre of the trunk. The bats live in the trunk, about five meters above the ground.

The individuals who entered the hollow trees and stayed there for 2 to 15 minutes to observe the bats inhaled the fungal spores. Campercenter Peerdeman, the ultimate Camperspecialist of North Holland. Dr. Manoon said the infected seven started experiencing flu-like symptoms and exhaustion a few weeks after they returned home.

The chest X-rays showed that growths between 3 mm and 1 centimetre in diameter had started to form in their lungs.

They were diagnosed with histoplasmosis after the fungus was found in their lung samples. dr. Manoon said the number of infections had remained low. He suggested putting up a sign advising to step into the hollow trees, while anyone who did and later noticed symptoms should seek immediate medical attention.

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