Scroll Top

Wisconsin woman dead after contracting rare fungus found in soil

A Wisconsin woman’s death from an unusual fungus left her loving family reeling.

Now, the family of Sonya Cruz from Ketnosha, Wisconsin, is warning others about blastomyces- a rare fungus that when disturbed releases spores into the air that can cause severe illness and death.

The fungus can be found in soil, especially in moist and wooded areas.

“My life. They took my life away from me. I’m not saying the hospital or whoever. Whatever this is, took my wife,” John Cruz, Sonya’s husband, told Fox 6.

“Whatever this is, took my wife.”

— John Cruz

Blastomyces Dermatitidis

Blastomycosis, caused by Blastomyces dermatitidis, is a flu-like condition with fever, chills, productive cough, myalgia, arthralgia and pleuritic chest pain. (Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

Prior to Cruz’s wife contracting the deadly disease, he had never heard of it.


“I can walk out here and swallow a bullet, not literally a bullet, but a bullet of that,” he said. “I think this is something that needs to be shared around the world.”

Blastomyces Dermatitidis

Methenamine silver stain photomicrograph of the histopathologic changes in blastomycosis due to Blastomyces dermatitidis. (Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), Wisconsin reported the highest number of cases of blastomyces in the U.S.- 2.1 cases per 100,000 residents.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Health, the state had 1,142 cases – roughly 116 each year between 2011 and 2020.

“It’s probably more common than we think,” said Dr. Bruce Klein of the University of Wisconsin Medical School.

“It’s probably more common than we think.”

— Dr. Bruce Klein

The CDC said that the rare fungus is also found in other Midwestern, south-central, and southeastern states.

“That’s probably only a fraction of the true occurrence of infection, because we know that at least half of the cases can have mild or asymptomatic illness,” Klein said.

Blastomyces Dermatitidis

This photomicrograph depicts the fungal agent Blastomyces dermatitidis, (Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images)

According to the CDC, deaths from Blastomyces are rare with just 1,200 deaths between 1990 and 2010.

Sonya’s daughter, Shatrice Staten, said that she hopes that no one has to go through what her family is going through following her mother’s unexpected death.

“It just sucks. I had to watch my mom take her last breath. It really does,” Staten said. “I don’t want anyone else to feel like what me and my dad going through.”

Sarah Rumpf-Whitten is a writer on the breaking news team for Fox News Digital. You can reach her on Twitter at @s_rumpfwhitten.



Privacy Preferences
When you visit our website, it may store information through your browser from specific services, usually in form of cookies. Here you can change your privacy preferences. Please note that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our website and the services we offer.