23rd April 2010 09:36
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New Deadly Fungus Found in U.S., Has Already Killed Six
A new strain of hypervirulent, deadly fungus has been discovered in the United States, a new study says.
The outbreak has already killed six people in Oregon, and it will likely creep into northern California and possibly farther, experts say.
The new strain is of the species Cryptococcus gattii, an airborne fungus native to tropical and subtropical regions, including Papua New Guinea, Australia, and parts of South America. An older strain of the fungus was frst detected in North America in British Columbia, Canada, in 1999.
No one knows how the species got to North America or how the fungus can thrive in a temperate region, experts say.
"The alarming thing is that it's occurring in this region, it's affecting healthy people, and geographically it's been expanding," said study co-author Edmond Byrnes, a graduate student at the Joseph Heitman Lab at Duke University.
Less common than bacterial and viral infections, fungal diseases usually strike people with weakened immune systems—part of what makes the recent deaths of otherwise healthy people in Oregon so worrisome.
People can become infected with Cryptococcus gattii by inhaling the microscopic organisms—and there's not much you can do about it.
There's no vaccination or other preventative measure available for the new strain, though the infection can be treated with antibiotics, the study says. And "there are no particular precautions that can be taken to avoid Cryptococcosis," according to the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control. "You can, however, be alert for long lasting or severe symptoms and consult a physician (or veterinarian for animals) for early diagnosis and treatment."
Appearing several months after exposure to the fungus, the infection causes a bad cough and shortness of breath, among other symptoms.
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Last edited by Sunny d; 23rd April 2010 at 10:21.
24th April 2010 15:41
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