Experts say there is no need to panic over the fungal disease known as Emergomyces Africanus initially detected in the Western Cape. The department of Infectious diseases at Groote Schuur hospital says while the fungal disease may be deadly, it mainly affects a severely compromised immune system. For now experts believe that the disease is airborne and therefore acquired by inhalation.

Scientists have described it as an opportunistic group of fungi. It causes a disease known as Emergomyces Africanus. Professor Sipho Dlamini of Groote Schuur Hospital says those who are severely immune -suppressed, are most at risk.

“This particular fungi affects people with a weakened immune system, so people with strong immune systems are by and large not affected. Its those with weakened immune systems and certainly those who have an advance HIV disease, meaning people whose immune systems is very weak, when it comes to HIV infections.”

Although patients with the fungal disease were initially detected in the Western Cape in 2013, cases have since been reported from all provinces in South Africa as well as in Lesotho.

Head if Infectious Diseases at the University of Stellenbosch, Dr Jantjie Taljaard says recent studied suggest that the disease is airborne but cannot be spread from person to person.

“Most of these fungi reside in the soil. All fungi are found in soil. Sometimes especially when the soil dried out they become airborne and so then people can inhale the spores and can cause diseases.”

Symptoms of the disease are detected on the skin, sometimes pulmonary diseases as well as fever and weight loss. Experts were quick to warn the public not to confuse Emergomyces Africanus with Listeriosis.

While both are found in soil , Listeriosis is a bacteria and Emergomyces is a fungi. Clinicians have warned the public should not be too alarmed.