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Airborne Fungus Expected to Spread in U.S.

About 10 People Have Reportedly Died in Northwestern U.S. After Infection With C. gatti

How the Fungus Spreads

''The fungus is present in the environment," Hedberg says. "It's present in soil or in trees." As trucks transport lumber down the I-5 corridor in the Pacific Northwest, she says, the fungus has likely spread.

The airborne fungus is inhaled. "People have to inhale it to get sick," Hedberg says. "It's not spread from person to person at all."

And, she adds, many are exposed but few actually get sick.

The time from exposure to the fungus to onset of symptoms varies, Heitman says. It could be two to eight months.

Fungus Symptoms

Four symptoms are typical of infection with C. gattii, says Harris of the CDC. They include:

  • Severe headache
  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Shortness of breath

Some people infected with the fungus have just one of the symptoms, she tells WebMD, but often they have all four.

See your doctor if you experience the symptoms and think you may have been exposed, she advises.

She encourages doctors to be alert to the symptoms in patients, especially if they live in or have visited the Pacific Northwest.

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