Update on Deadly Pacific Northwest Cryptococcal Disease
A report has been presented at the 48th annual meeting of the Infectious Disease Society of America regarding a disease caused by the fungus Cryptococcus gattii (Cg). The fungus was first found to have appeared in North America in Vancouver Island and B.C., Canada in 1999. The disease, which “can cause serious central nervous system and respiratory infections,” has infected humans in the American Pacific Northwest (Oregon and Washington mostly) since 2004.
The most prevalent strains found are VGIIa and VGIIc. They seem more likely to be contracted by individuals who are already experiencing health issues, but for some reason, healthy individuals that contract it appear to have more serious disease.
Before You Panic:
The total number of human infections documented in these areas is only 70, so it’s hardly a pandemic at this point. The disease can not be spread from mammal to mammal. It is airborne and spreads via inhaling spores of this Cg fungus. So try not to do that.
It is said to have a case fatality rate of 32%. However, the number vary between US and Canadian observations. The fatality rate is much lower in the B.C. area of Canada than the Pacific Northwest of the US. The reason for this is not clear.
Two possible reasons are for this are stated. One is due to different surveillance systems. Canada may be including more infected people who are not showing symptoms, thus reducing the percentage of fatalities. The other reason could be that there are simply two different outbreaks being observed simultaneously.
Symptoms appear 2-13 months after exposure and may vary depending upon the strain. They include “cough, dyspnea, chest pain, fever, headache, night sweats, meningitis, pneumonia, or cryptococcomas, which are common in the brain or lungs. Lung nodules on chest x-ray might be the first sign of an infection.”
“Treatment consists of intravenous antifungal agents for 6 to 18 months. Resection of the lung or brain might be indicated, with shunts to drain cerebrospinal fluid.”
You can read more details on this at medscape.com