Via MyNorthwest.com: For the first time, fatal fungus found in Washington state.
A fungus that can launch a fatal illness has been found for the first time in the soil of Washington.
Officials for Washington State University say the fungus can cause valley fever, an illness that presents symptoms ranging from flu- to pneumonia-like.
Valley fever occurs when the soil-dwelling fungus becomes airborne, releasing spores that get lodged in the lungs of humans and certain animals, especially dogs.
The fungus is normally found in semiarid parts of the Southwest.
Three unrelated cases were diagnosed in Eastern Washington in 2010-11.
Scientists for Washington State say that soil samples taken recently from the vicinity tested positive for the fungus, proving it can survive here.
All three people who got sick in Eastern Washington survived.
According to WSU, in the fungus' most severe form, spores break from the lungs and cycle through the bloodstream, setting up infections that destroy bones, cause skin abscesses and inflame the brain.
The Centers for Disease Control estimates it kills 160 people a year.
WSU Regents Professor Emeritus Jack D. Rogers, an international expert on fungi, said the appearance of valley fever is not a one-time fluke.
"Do I think it just showed up and made three people sick? No," Rogers said. "I think it has probably been in the soil for some time."