"Fungal Disease Spreads Through Pacific Northwest"

"A rare and dangerous fungal infection named Cryptococcus gattii has been quietly spreading from British Columbia southward to the U.S. Pacific Northwest. And it's changing as it goes.

Researchers have discovered that a unique strain of the bug has emerged recently in Oregon, and already has spread widely there, sickening humans and animals.

So far, over the past 11 years there have been about 220 cases reported in British Columbia. Since 2004, doctors in Washington and Oregon have reported about 50 cases. Among the total 270 cases, 40 people have died from overwhelming infections of the lungs and brain.

Public health officials aren't calling it a public health emergency. The fungus can't be spread from person to person, and there doesn't seem to be any prospect of an explosive epidemic. But they do want doctors to be on the lookout for cases, because early diagnosis and proper treatment is vital to prevent deaths.

The most striking thing about this fungus is that it's popping up and establishing itself far afield from its usual range -- possibly because of climate change."

Richard Knox reports for Vermont Public Radio April 23, 2010.

See Also:

"New Concerns About Deadly Fungus Found in Oregon" (Science Now)

"Potentially Deadly Fungus Spreading in U.S. and Canada" (Reuters)

"Potentially Lethal Fungus Moves South From Canada" (Los Angeles Times)

Friday, April 23, 2010