Mystery Disease Linked to Missing Israeli Scientist
H.P. Albarelli Jr., 07 May 2010
Media outlets across the Northwest United States began reporting on April 24 that a strange, previously unknown strain of virulent airborne fungi that has already killed at least six people in Oregon, Washington and Idaho is spreading throughout the region. The fungus, according to expert microbiologists, who have expressed alarm about the emergence of the strain, is a new genotype of Cryptococcus gatti fungi. Cryptococcus gatti is normally found in tropical and subtropical locations in India, South America, Africa and Australia. Microbiologists in the United States are reporting that the strain found here, for reasons not yet fully understood, is far deadlier than any found overseas.
Physicians in the Pacific Northwest are reporting that an undetermined number of people in the region are ill from the effects of the strange strain. Physicians also say that the virulent strain can infect domestic animals as well as humans, and symptoms do not appear until anywhere from two to four months after exposure. Symptoms in humans include a lingering cough, sharp chest pains, fever, night-sweats, weight-loss, headaches and shortness of breath. The strain can be treated successfully, if detected early enough, with oral doses of antifungal medication, but it cannot be prevented, and there is no preventative vaccine. Undiagnosed, the fungus works its way into the spinal fluid and central nervous system and causes fatal meningitis.