Harris noted that the total number of cases of C. gattii infection is unknown, because only the more severe cases tend to be reported. But she expects to see more mild cases as people become aware of the infection.
"We don't know at this point what the true case fatality rate is," Harris said. "As with any new disease, what you usually see is that mild cases go undetected, so probably the case fatality rate is going to be lower than what we are seeing right now."
Treatment for C. gattii consists of six to eight weeks of intravenous anti-fungal medications, followed by six months or more of oral fluconazole and it "is not always a pleasant treatment," Harris added.
At the moment, C. gattii appears to be confined to the Pacific Northwest. It could spread, but Harris said that might not happen because "fungi need very special environmental conditions to survive and to propagate."
Why this infection -- typically a tropical disease -- is now cropping up in the United States is not known, Harris stated. It is endemic to Australia and Papua New Guinea and has been seen in northern Africa, Asia, Brazil, Columbia and parts of the Mediterranean, she said.
However, the type of C. gattii seen in the United States is uncommon in other parts of the globe, according to the report, which noted that one Pacific Northwest subtype has never been seen before.
The CDC is also aware of 52 cases of infection among animals.
"It can be fatal to animals. Animals are closer to the ground, they're sniffing around, so we think they are probably more susceptible to infection than humans," Harris said.
Infectious disease expert Dr. Marc Siegel, an associate professor of medicine at New York University, said while the number of infections is small, C. gattii is an emerging infection that needs to be taken seriously.'/>"/>
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