Saturday, January 05, 2008
Toxic fungus continues to spread in Oregon
Cryptococcus gattii, a microscopic pathogen normally found in tropical and subtropical locales in Australia, Africa, India or South America is popping up in the Pacific Northwest. It was discovered in British Columbia in 2001, and recently sickened a woman in Junction City, Oregon the Register-Guard reported last week.
The article quoted associate professor of environmental health at the University of British Columbia: One theory suggests that the microscopic, yeastlike fungus only recently arrived in the Northwest from the tropics, where it’s long been established... Perhaps it stowed away on a tropical plant imported to Canada or was carried by migrating birds.
A competing theory holds that the fungus has been here for a long time, unnoticed until changes in climate or land use patterns allowed it to grow in high enough concentrations that it became airborne and available for causing disease in humans and animals.
Scary thoughts for hikers in Oregon and the Pac NW in general. Talk about the dangers of climate change! The University of British Columbia has been researching the spread of the fungus.
The photo (from a 2007 article in the Globe and Mail) shows the lung x-rays of a fungus victim from British Columbia.