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3 Biological Hazard events: Oregan (fungus), Texas Golden alga, Philippines (poison)

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ensho Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-10 10:22 AM
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3 Biological Hazard events: Oregan (fungus), Texas Golden alga, Philippines (poison)


Situation Update No. 1
On 24.04.2010 at 04:58 GMT+2

A potentially life-threatening new type of fungus has been discovered in Oregon, and experts are warning that it could soon spread into neighboring regions. The pathogen is a strain of Cryptococcus gattii -- C. gattii for short -- and appears to have a death rate of around 25 percent among those infected, although researchers have only evaluated 18 human and 21 animal cases, all of which occurred between 2005 and 2009. Experts are particularly concerned because the fungus, which infects via airborne spores, seems to affect otherwise healthy individuals. Pathogens like C. gattii are usually only a problem for those with a compromised immune system, such as transplant recipients and HIV/AIDS sufferers. "Overall it's a pretty low threat, and it's still uncommon in the area, but as the range of the organism expands and the number of cases increases accordingly, it's becoming more of a concern," Edmond Byrnes III, a doctoral student in molecular genetics and microbiology at Duke, told CNN. When the fungal spores are inhaled, they lodge in the lungs and respiratory tract. Symptoms, which can take months to appear, include a persistent cough, chest pain and difficulty breathing. C. gattii is one species of Cryptococcus, a fungus usually associated with bird droppings.

In humans, Cryptococcus neoformans infection is relatively common among HIV patients, who are therefore advised to avoid areas with lots of birds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Until 1999, C. gattii was isolated to tropical regions. Then cases began popping up in the Pacific Northwest, including an outbreak on Vancouver Island that killed 9 percent of the 200 people believed to have been infected. Experts suspect the original strain was imported via foreign plants and that this latest C. gattii mutation, described as "highly virulent," is a new occurrence. It's unclear what factors might predispose a seemingly healthy person to infection. Young and old, male and female, smoker and nonsmoker -- all seem to be at equal risk. And while it's well known that C. gattii can be found in trees, it's unknown whether an individual needs to breathe air near a tree to get sick. "Our best guess is that it's mostly associated with trees and soil, so certain disturbances might allow the organism to become airborne and more or less float in the area," Byrnes said. Person-to-person transmission doesn't seem to be a problem. That's good news, although experts can't offer much advice in terms of prevention, and the study notes that treatment, which relies on anti-fungal medication, can take years. Moreover, "physicians could potentially miss the diagnosis," Karen Bartlett, an environmental hygienist with the University of British Columbia, told Science News, while adding that the infection is still quite rare. A working group of doctors and public health officials has already been formed in the Pacific Northwest, and the study's authors are calling for ongoing research and monitoring to stave off the spread of the fungus.


The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department says Golden alga is having a large impact to two important reservoirs and fisheries on the Brazos River system. Golden alga under certain environmental conditions release a toxin that affects fishes' ability to breath. The alga has resulted in the loss of more than 34 million fish valued at $14 million since 2001. TPWD biologists have been monitoring the alga blooms on Possum Kingdom Reservoir and Lake Whitney. "The department will continue to make it a priority to manage and enhance the fisheries at both of these reservoirs as well as others impacted by golden alga," said Brian Van Zee, TPWD Inland Fisheries Division Regional Director in Waco. "Once these events subside, our fisheries staff will assess the damages to the fish populations and implement efforts to restock and manage these fisheries." The TPWD has dedicated more than $4 million toward research of the golden alga. The toxic bloom began in March on Lake Whitney, about 40 miles northwest of Waco, causing the death or more than 68,000 fish.


The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and local government units (LGUs) recently carried out laboratory tests on certain coastal areas for determination of paralytic shellfish poison. The results of the test showed that the shellfish found on these areas are contaminated and exceeds the regulatory level of toxicity. Hence, BFAR warned that all types of shellfish and Acetes sp. or alamang gathered from these areas are not safe to eat excluding fish, squids, shrimps and crabs given that these are fresh and washed thoroughly. Further, the internal organs such as gills and intestines should be taken out before cooking. Specific areas affected comprise Dumanquilas Bay in Zamboanga del Sur, Bislig Bay in Bislig City, Surigao del Sur; Murcielagos Bay in Zamboanga del Norte and Misamis Occidental; and Matarinao Bay in Eastern Samar. Meanwhile, some coastal bodies of water are declared still red tide-free. These areas include Cavite, Las Pias, Paraaque, Navotas, Bulacan and Bataan in Manila Bay; coastal waters of Alaminos, Anda, Bolinao and Wawa, Bani in Pangasinan, Masinloc Bay in Zambales; coastal waters of Milagros and Mandaon in Masbate; Inner Malampaya Sound in Taytay and Honda Bay in Palawan, coastal waters of Pilar, President Roxas, Pontevedra in Negros Occidental; Irong-irong, Masqueda and Villareal Bays in Samar; Ormoc, San Pedro, Cancabato and Cacigara Bays in Leyte; Biliran waters in Biliran Province; Hinatuan and Lianga Bays in Surigao del Sur; Balite Bay in Mati, Davao Oriental; coastal waters of Kabasalan in Sibuguey Bay, Zamboanga Sibugay, Juag Lagoon in Matnog and Sorsogon Bay in Sorsogon

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Hawkeye-X Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-10 10:25 AM
Response to Original message
1. The fungus in Oregon can be explained
Sarah Palin was in town yesterday.
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MissB Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Apr-24-10 10:32 AM
Response to Reply #1
2. Seriously, oregon's state toxicologists are saying
that MSNBC's article is overblown. The state agency released a press release - which exactly one news media outlet picked up in their online version. The press release noted that the agency had issues with MSNBC's article and that the fungus was in fact only affecting those with otherwise compromised immune systems and respiratory issues.

Interestingly, none of the other local media- tv, newspaper or websites- have picked up the followup. Media doesn't like science, unless it scares the ever-loving shit out of people.

The palin comment was funny, though.
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