Dangerous Fungus Now Endemic in Pacific Northwest: CDC

By Dr. Matthew Watson

(HealthDay News) -- Cryptococcus gattii -- an airborne fungus that can cause life-threatening illness -- is an emerging infection in the Pacific Northwest, U.S. health officials said Thursday.

While C. gattii infections are rare -- only 60 cases have been reported since 2004 -- they can be severe and even fatal, researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report in the July 23 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

"C. gattii is still rare so we don't want people to panic or to misunderstand the risk of infection, but it is serious," said co-author Julie Harris, of CDC's National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-Borne, and Enteric Diseases.

Harris explained that people get the infection by breathing in the spores of the fungus, which live in the environment and are usually found in the bark of certain trees and the surrounding ground. Read more...

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