Spores that Kill: New Infectious Fungus in the Pacific Northwest

I found this late last week, and thought it was important enough for a posting: Deadly Airborne Fungus Spreading in Northwest. Apparently a ultra rare disease has been getting a little less rare in the Pacific Northwest. The culprit is a fungus named cryptococcus gattii. From the FoxNews article:

“Between 2003 and 2006, the outbreak expanded into neighboring mainland British Columbia and then into Washington and Oregon from 2005 to 2009. Based on this historical trajectory of expansion, the outbreak may continue to expand into the neighboring region of Northern California, and possibly further.”

Reading about this on various web sites, it appears that you can get this anywhere, but urban areas are less likely to expose people to the spores. Of course, it’s still rare enough that losing sleep or gaining stress over this would be uncalled for. Still, it’s a good thing to be aware of it and the symptoms. Here’s the list from Wikipedia that you should become at least a little familiar with:

Most people who are exposed to the fungus do not become ill. In people who become ill, symptoms appear many weeks to months after exposure. Symptoms of cryptococcal disease include:

* Prolonged cough (lasting weeks or months)
* Sputum production
* Sharp chest pain
* Shortness of breath
* Sinusitis (cottony drainage, soreness, pressure)
* Severe headache (meningitis, encephalitis, meningoencephalitis)
* Stiff neck (prolonged and severe nuchal rigidity)
* Muscle soreness (mild to severe, local or diffuse)
* Photophobia (excessive sensitivity to light)
* Blurred or double vision
* Eye irritation ( soreness, redness)
* Focal neurological deficits
* Fever (delirium, hallucinations)
* Confusion (abnormal behavior changes, inappropriate mood swings)
* Seizures
* Dizziness
* Night sweats
* Weight loss
* Nausea (with or without vomiting)
* Skin lesions (rashes, scaling, plaques, papules, nodules, blisters, subcutaneous tumors or ulcers)
* Lethargy
* Apathy

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