Saturday, September 28, 2013

Deadly Fungal Disease May Spread in U.S.

Annie Hauser Published: Sep 13, 2013, 10:34 AM EDT

(Wikimedia Commons/CDC)
The Pacific Northwest — a region known for stunning natural vistas and a love of outdoor recreation — is also home to a deadly fungal disease that's spread through the air, according to public health officials. The cryptococcus gattii fungus is rare, but spreading, researchers say in a new report published in Emerging Infectious Diseases.
As of June, only 171 sicknesses caused by the cryptococcus gattii (c. gattii) fungus have been reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 2004, according to NBC News.
(MORE: America's Deadliest Disease Outbreaks)
In the Pacific Northwest region of Canada, it has sickened at least 338 individuals since 1999, health officials told NBC News.
Since 2010, 34 people have died as a result of c. gattii in Canada and six in the United States, NBC News reports.
At least 100 of the 171 American cases have been confined to Oregon and Washington, but North Carolina, Rhode Island, New Mexico, Michigan, Georgia and Montana have also reported cases, according to this most recent study. In Florida, an otherwise healthy man contracted the infection, even though he had not traveled to endemic areas, researchers said. Outside of North America, tropic and sub-tropic regions have endemic rates of c. gattii.
The CDC doesn't consider c. gattii to be a massive public health threat, and there is currently no means of preventing on occurrence of the disease, but it does want to raise awareness of it.
Severe infections are characterized by deadly lung and brain infections, according to NBC News. Infection from c. gattii is characterized by trouble breathing, pneumonia and possibly meningitis, researchers wrote in this most recent study. Some patients have also reported aches and pain throughout their body. These symptoms could help explain some American cases of meningitis that have not been attributed to c. gattii, researchers believe.

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