The latest scare for dog owners is a new fungus found in the United States. If you walk your dog on wooded trails in the Northwest where Douglas Fir and Hemlock grow rampant, be aware, but don’t panic. Take a look at the facts and understand the likelihood of getting infected are slim to none.
The new strain of fungus is an airborne one and those most likely to be at risk normally are people, dogs and other animals with weakened immune systems. The new strain of Cryptoccocus Gattii is affecting healthy people and therein lies the mystery. According to National Geographic news, no one knows how this fungus entered the United States, as it is most commonly found in tropical and subtropical regions.
Any word with “crypt” in it can’t be a good thing. Should we all of a sudden start being paranoid about walking our dogs in the forest? Certainly that is the question on everyone’s mind. Systematic sampling has shown the C. Gattii fungus to be more predominant in high-traffic locations, according to cgattii.net. The scare factor of the new fungus is that all you have to be doing is breathing it in to become affected. Those of us with dogs understand dogs use their noses for everything and stick them everywhere. The likelihood dog and owner might contract the fungus is cause for concern. Do we have to stop walking our dogs in the Northwest forests? If you are like me, you have to at least question it.
The new strain apparently is confined to Oregon, but is highly virulent and most likely to spread to northern California. Still, it is uncommon and a low threat. You could take the attitude, if we get it, we get it. We’ll deal with it. Of course, if this organism spreads and cases become more prevalent, it will indeed be a cause for concern. It is easily spread by simply walking through it, getting it on your shoes and it could be carried on truck and car wheels, so why not a dog’s paws transporting the fungus from one location to another. Spreading is inevitable now that the new fungus is here. But is it cause for paranoia?
How do you know if your dog may have contracted the fungus. In animals, to include cats and dogs, symptoms include a runny nose, according to cgattii.net, a site tracking and following the fungus. Along with that will come a cough and breathing problems. Other animals can be infected as well, such as ferrets and llamas and there are other strains of the fungus as evidenced in a finding in a bottlenosed dolphin as far south as San Diego. These symptoms could be indicative of many other illnesses as well so it is hard to pinpoint. In people, other symptoms are chest pain, headache and fever. All sound like symptoms that could be caused from many other maladies. Only a physician will be able to specifically nail down the cause and if this is as a result of the new deadly strain of C.gattii fungus.
Still, do we need to panic? Fungal infections are less common than bacterial or viral, but there is no preventative, such as a vaccine to protect against the C.gattii fungus. This is what makes it worrisome and deadly. National Geographic news says, there’s not much you can do about it once inhaled.
An ABC news report says fears about this new fungus are overblown. This was in April, 2010, at this writing November 2010, that was seven months ago. A lot can happen in that span of time and the new strain is definitely one to keep tabs on.
The good news is the fungus can’t be spread from person to person and the percentages of infections are low, a one in four chance. The less deadly strain in comparison was even less likely to be contracted or approimately one in ten, making the new strain percentage a more deadly strain.
One thing is for sure the new strain is going to stick around and so keeping tabs of where it is headed, what pets are infected and die and the cases of deaths among the human population is something to keep track of if living in the Pacific Northwest.
An infection can occur several months after exposure, according to reports. A November 2010, Oregon State government document from Medscape Medical News titled Cryptoccocal Disease Moves from Topics to Pacific Northwest. was presented at the Infectious Disease Society of America’s 48th Annual meeting.
Again, where it is coming from is supposition, but the report states it could be deforestation and global warming. Those most at risk are people over the age of 49 and with predisposed health risks. This spills over as common sense to animals with predisposed health issues and senior aged pets. It is definitely a concern at this point, but not something to be cited as a scare or reason to stop hiking in the woods with our furry friends.
For now, the April 2010 ABC news report says it all, “One would be as likely to be hit by lightning as to be afflicted by this strain, according to Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.