Rare Disease Emerging in Pacific Northwest

ATLANTA, July 22 (UPI) — Cryptococcus gattii, a rare disease that can affect the lungs and nervous system, is emerging in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, federal health officials say.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report released Thursday says unlike the more common Cryptococcus neoformans, most patients with C. gattii are not infected with HIV.

C. gattii infections are rare, with 60 infections reported since 2004, but they can be severe or fatal. From 1999 to early 2008, C. gatti infected 216 people in British Columbia, and eight died as of 2008.

Common symptoms include prolonged cough, shortness of breath, headache, fever and weight loss, the report says.

“Clinical signs can include pneumonia, meningitis and cryptococcomas in the lungs, brain, and other tissues. If patients are experiencing these symptoms, they should visit their doctor,” the report advises.

“Clinicians should consider C. gattii as a possible etiology of cryptococcal infection among symptomatic patients, particularly HIV-negative patients, who live in or have visited the Pacific Northwest or other C. gattii-endemic areas during the past year. In addition, clinicians should report suspected cases of C. gattii infection to their state health department.”

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