The mystery of the fungus that invaded Oregon recently has health experts scrambling for answers. The disturbing strain known to infect the lungs with a 25% mortality rate has many worried about a major health concern. The fungus has never been seen before outside of tropical regions, causing scientists to speculate changing climate is to blame for the outbreak.
When the mysterious ailment started spreading from the west coast, those who were able to identify it recognized that they hadn’t seen anything like it in the United States, though it did exist in more tropical regions. Perhaps the most troubling aspect is that the spores have been traveling farther than they should be at this point and are threatening to invade California soon. It’s called VGIIc, and it is posing an environmental hazard in addition to serious health problems.
The spore is inhaled during the course of normal breathing as visitors or locals come into contact with it in the wild. It’s difficult to detect and often visitors will pass by it without even knowing what it is or that it can be hazardous to their health. In fact, they may go for several weeks or even months without knowing they are carrying with them the spores of this fungus. As it grows on the lining of the lungs, the fungus then begins to block passages and the victim feels it as a tremendous cough. Incubation can be up to more than a month before a victim feels the effects. And even those who discover it in time and seek treatment may require up to years of treatments. In some cases surgery is implemented to move fungal growths from the lung tissue.
But why is this new and deadliest strain growing in Oregon now? Many are citing weather conditions changing, but others aren’t so sure. In 2009, news of a microbiologist Joseph Moshe being arrested in an incredibly unusual chase followed by agents from several government institutions (some unknown) quickly was followed by several different theories linking him to deadly strains of various potential disease outbreaks. Though he was originally linked to a H5N1 and H1N1 conspiracy, Dan Even of Haaretz reported a link between Moshe and the spread of the fungus.
While some are suggesting the spores in the lungs can be transmitted from one person to another, this is simply not true. A report from Time magazine outlined that cryptococcus gati, while deadly, is not transmittable from one human to another or between animals and humans. More likely the disease would be spread on the shoe of a traveler into a new area where it would spread.
A media frenzy could come from this deadly disease, but in all fewer than 30 people have been infected in the United States. The real question is, where did it come from and why is it spreading now? Is it possible changing climates could have contributed to its disastrous spread to Oregon? Or is there something else going on that suggests a clandestine conspiracy?