Sunday, April 25, 2010

#emergingdiseases ::: Beware the Northwest Fungus

There's a fungus among us, and it's not a good thing. Some folks are trying to blame the outbreak on Global Warming. But through the centuries and decades there have always been threats of disease. In the middle ages it was plague. In the 18-19th centuries Smallpox and Scarlett Fever. In the early 20th century people were scared to death about Typhoid and influenza. Then polio. The "Big C." Aids. Flesh-eating disease. Mad Cow. Swine Flu.

Today, a rare, dangerous fungal infection called Cryptococcus Gattii has been quietly spreading from British Columbia southward to the U.S. Pacific Northwest. I first heard about it while listening to the car radio.

I wonder if one reason why we might fear this disease (and others) is because we are "too clean." We use too many disinfecting cleaners and hand sanitizers. We don't let our kids get "dirty enough" when they're outside playing. This Cryptococcus thing attacks the brain. Interesting to note that, to date, almost all cases have involved people between the ages of 15 and 95. Very few children have gotten the fungus infection, which also appears in domestic and wild animals.

It is absorbed through the lungs and the symptoms of the infection, which can appear from weeks to several months after exposure, include chest pain, shortness of breath, headache, fever and a cough lasting weeks. A report on the fungus was published in the Public Library of Science journal PLoS Pathogens. Edmond Byrnes from Duke University was the lead investigator of the study. The mortality rate of the fungus is 25%, considered unusually high.

Scientists at Duke are calling for awareness and increased vigilance about the CG fungus, but doctors caution that while increased research is needed, the new strain is not of major concern to the public. That makes me feel better!

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1 comment:

imelda said...

yikes its scary. i have allergies now and its complicated by fungi and bacterial infection. its due to the heat im itching

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