C. gattii is a fungus that can infect the lungs and nervous systems of humans and animals. Until 1999, it was found only in tropical and subtropical regions. The fungus has since spread and is now endemic along the Pacific Coast. Over 170 cases have occurred in British Columbia, Canada. Fifty-two cases have occurred in Washington.
The incubation period is long and variable. It can range from 2 to 14 months. Symptoms cover a wide spectrum and are generally nonspecific. Up to 20% of cases result in fungal meningitis.
Inhaling C. gattii spores can cause infection. It does not spread from person to person or animal to person.
Test patients with atypical pneumonia or fungal meningitis for C. gattii. Special diagnostic tools are required to differentiate C. gattii from other Cryptococcus strains.