What Is Blastomycosis? The Fungal Infection That Created 'Swiss Cheese' Like Holes and Claimed the Life of a Young Chef

The infection that could be fatal for those with weakened immune system

A 29-year-old chef from the United States tragically passed away after a harrowing battle with a rare fungal disease that wreaked havoc on his lungs and was likened to the appearance of "Swiss cheese." Ian Pritchard, based in Michigan, succumbed to blastomycosis, an illness caused by a fungus that targeted and deteriorated his respiratory system, as reported by the New York Post.

Chef Dies of Blastomycosis

According to Ian's father, Ron Pritchard, speaking to UpNorthLive in December, medical professionals presented a distressing image of Ian's lungs, describing them as resembling "Swiss cheese." Last week, on Saturday, Ian was removed from life support at a Detroit hospital, as detailed on a GoFundMe page which successfully raised nearly $20,000 for his grieving family.

"The Blastomycosis fungal infection ravaged Ian's lungs beyond repair," stated the GoFundMe page. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention explain that in individuals with weakened immune systems, the infection can progress from the lungs to affect the central nervous system, skin, and joints.

Research conducted in 2005 revealed that between 4% and 22% of individuals infected with blastomycosis succumb to the disease. The infection is contracted by inhaling spores of the fungus blastomyces, which are present in moist soil, decaying wood, and leaves predominantly found in the Midwest and Southern regions of the US.

"It's in the air, it's in the trees, it's in the wet leaves, it's in the ground, it's in the mud, it's in, everywhere. Everywhere in northern Michigan -- in fact, the Midwest -- is covered in (blastomyces)," warned Ron Pritchard. Symptoms typically manifest within two to 15 weeks of exposure, with approximately half of patients experiencing fever, cough, shortness of breath, and muscle aches.

While there is no known cure for blastomycosis, the illness is managed with antifungal medications such as Itraconazole. Ron Pritchard disclosed that his son's monthly medication expenses amounted to about $7,000.

"He was a good kid. He didn't get in very much trouble, he was no trouble to raise," shared Ron Pritchard. "People love his food, people love him."

Ian Pritchard's untimely demise sheds light on the severity of blastomycosis and underscores the importance of awareness and vigilance regarding rare fungal diseases.