Infectious disease expert: Fungal illness outbreak at UP paper mill spreads through environment

"It’s a very common fungus," said Dr. Matthew Sims, Corewell Health East. "Sometimes it looks like a mold, and sometimes it looks like a yeast."

And the fungus, for some, can be deadly. A contractor at a paper mill in Michigan's Upper Peninsula recently died from it after the fungus caused an outbreak at the Escanaba business.

"And since so many people got infected, you have to think somewhere there is a very high, large amount of these spores in that paper mill," Sims added.

Fortunately, the infection is treatable but if you have a compromised immune system, it’s more challenging to treat.

"The important thing to know is that it does not spread person-to-person; you inhale those spores through the environment," he said.

Officials says the source of the fungus is still unknown.

"It’s usually associated with soil and decaying plant matter, and paper is still made from trees," Sims said. "I’m sure the CDC and locals are investigating trying to find the exact source."

The CDC is also concerned about another fungus making the rounds called Candida auris, which is resistant to treatment - and spreading rapidly.

Sims, who is the Director of Infectious Disease Research, weighed in on the rise.

"How much of this is a true increase, versus how much is better technology for detecting it - and also looking closely for it, because we know it’s there and a potential problem," he said.

As doctors remain vigilant there is some good news.

"We haven’t treated any case of this at Corewell Health East in quite awhile," Sims said.

But doctors are sounding the alarm for nursing homes and long term healthcare facilities.

"And that’s where we see a large amount of this," Sims said. "And then they have to worry about not letting it spread to other people."

Despite what appears to be rising numbers, most people will not be impacted by Candida auris.

"This is not something the average person should concern themselves about," Sims said.