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Family and friends mourn the loss of man killed by blastomycosis

Daniel Rens was a linebacker for the Menasha High School football team. (Courtesy: The Rens Family)

MENASHA - Family and friends of a Menasha man are still in shock after they say his death was linked to a blastomycosis outbreak.

"He was the person that would come up and talk to anybody, friendly, outgoing," said Nehemiah Torres.

Torres knew Daniel Rens and remembers his simile and, most of all, his sense of humor.

"He was just one of the greatest people to be around. He would laugh at something stupid, not even funny but you couldn't help but laugh because he had that contagious laugh," Torres said.

Torres and Rens were more than just friends.

"I have two sisters and two brothers from my mother and then, God saw fit to grant me with a third and now, he needed him back," Torres said.

The two met their senior year at Menasha High School. Rens was a linebacker on the football team.

After graduation, Rens and Torres kept in touch and spent a lot of time together.

Torres never thought a tubing trip, on the Little Wolf River, would eventually lead to his friend's death.

"They all went. It was, maybe, a week before June 15th," Torres.

Torres didn't go on the trip but Rens and a large group of friends, including Hannah Konetzke did.

"I started to feel fatigued and nauseous," said Hannah Konetzke.

FOX 11 talked to her in the hospital back in August. Doctors diagnosed her with blastomycosis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, blastomycosis is caused by a fungus found in soil. Spores can be inhaled and affect a person lungs.

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services has linked a blastomycosis outbreak to the Little Wolf River near New London.

"He was diagnosed shortly after the Wolf River trip," Torres said.

Rens' parents did not want to go on camera but they did say after the doctor gave their son antibiotics, he started to feel better.

Then, last month, Rens felt sick again. His parents took him to the hospital but by then, it was too late.

"It basically took over his whole lungs," Torres said.

Rens took a picture of himself and posted it on Facebook before the doctors put him into a medically induced coma.

Torres says the loss of his friend is a reminder.

"I appreciate everyone and every blessing I have in my life," he said.

The latest numbers from the Department of Health Services show there have been 49 confirmed blastomycosis cases including one death related to the Little Wolf River.

Blastomycosis related deaths do not have to be reported to the State.

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