Floating Fungus: Trouble in the Air?


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been trying to spread the word, sending out bulletins to doctors and clinicians and presenting at conferences to heighten awareness of the fungal outbreak. Still, "with a new infection, it's always a challenge," Harris acknowledges.

"Physicians around the country should be aware of this problem, and should ask their patients about their travel history during the year before they became ill."

In Rathtrevor Park, all is quiet among the trails that meander inland from where the whitecapped waters slap against the shore. The campsites here—small, worn clearings a few paces apart from one another under the fir-and-maple canopy—are unoccupied, except for one couple relaxing in foldout chairs next to an old Winnebago.

Nearby, in a grass meadow, an old man walks with his dog. A mother and son venture to the water, admire the bleached-white bones of an uprooted tree trunk, snap a photo. If concerns linger about whether it's safe to visit here, there's no sign of it today.

Perhaps sensing my uneasiness, Karen Bartlett and even Barb Merriman have encouraged me--and urge anyone else so inclined--to come back and visit.

"We still enjoy the trails and parks on Vancouver Island," Barb Merriman says, "and will continue to do so. Cryptococcus gattii is low risk—I do not want people to worry about it. Just be informed."

Her words reassure me a little as I take one last turn around the grounds, stare once more up at the magnificent trees. Still, later on as the ferry pulls away from Nanaimo, I breathe a little easier.


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