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According to recent reports, a potentially deadly airborne fungus has spread its way throughout the Pacific Northwest, infecting more than 50 people. The fungus, also known as the “deadly fungus” originated in Canada and has health officials concerned, but not ready to sound any alarms.

The fungus, also known as Cryptococcus gattiiis, is capable of triggering both pneumonia and meningitis, however at this time health officials are considering those illnesses rare possibilities. So far, the fungus has only been detected in the Pacific Northwest. Moreover, at a news conference last Friday, the interim state epidemiologist for the Oregon Department of Health Services Public Division stated that it was rare for persons exposed to the fungus to become very ill. The Centers for Disease Control has not commented on the exact number of deaths caused by exposure to the fungus, but revealed that approximately 10 of the 50 have died.

Researchers studying the fungus, which is usually located in tropical climates, stated that the fungus originates in soil and is associated with a certain species of trees. So far, most of the people infected have been treated with anti-fungal agents but there is not vaccine yet to treat those stricken or to prevent others from contamination. The 50 reported cases have spanned Washington, Oregon and California, and unlike other common fungi that usually only infect individuals with weakened immune systems, this fungus also infects healthy people. Once inhaled, the fungus takes up to eight months to cause various symptoms including severe headaches, fever, chills, and shortness of breath. Doctors have been ordered to report these symptoms for patients who have travelled to the Northwest.

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