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New strain of Cryptococcus gattii found in Oregon and Washington

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – A deadly form of the fungus Cryptococcus gattii is grabbing headlines in Oregon and Washington, but it’s something people in B.C. have been dealing with for over a decade.

It was first found in trees and soil on Vancouver Island in 1999, and the B.C. Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) is now working with American health departments, after a new strain of Cryptococcus gattii surfaced in at least two states in the Pacific Northwest.  Approximately 25 people get it in B.C. every year.  The fungus causes pneumonia or meningitis when it infects.

Dr. Eleni Galanis with the BCCDC says Cryptococcus gattii does not have the potential to become a major public health problem.  “The majority of British Columbians have probably breathed it in, but the majority of us, the vast majority of us, have not become ill.  It is a disease that is wide-spread in the environment, but is not leading to illness in a lot of people”

Dr. Galanis says people with those symptoms may want to mention the fungus when they see their doctors.