Deadly fungus spreading in California
April 23, 2010
A currently untreatable strain of fungus has claimed the lives of at least 23 people in California and the Pacific Northwest, researchers said Friday. [KTVU]
Known as Cryptococcus Gattii, the new strain of fungus is spread by the wind. It can live in the soil and also appears partial to Douglas Fir and Eucalyptus trees.
Cryptococcus Gattii usually only infects people with otherwise compromised immune systems, but the new strain is genetically different and appears to be a threat to otherwise healthy people, researchers said.
The new strain seems to be unusually deadly with a mortality rate of about 25 percent. [Reuters] There are currently 200 people in the Pacific Northwest and California who are known to be infected.
The fungus has also turned up in cats, dogs and sheep.
Symptoms can appear as early as two weeks after exposure or take months to manifest. They include a cough that lasts for weeks, sharp chest pain, shortness of breath, headache, fever, nighttime sweats and weight loss.
Worse still, the fungus can cross into the brain causing thinking abnormalities.
Currently, there is nothing people can do to protect themselves, researchers said.