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Asthmatics alerted over spores threat

By Sarah Cosgrove, http://www.hortweek.com/

aspergillus-flavus_tnA professional gardener whose lung filed with pus after inhaling a deadly fungus that lurks in bark and mulch has warned others that they should be careful.

People with asthma or a weak immune system are advised to wear masks when moving rotting leaf, plant and tree mulch because of the microscopic dust that this dislodges, which can contain Aspergillus fungal spores.

The National Aspergillosis Centre, University Hospital of South Manchester, sees about 350 new patients a year with conditions coming from inhaling the spores. Professor of infectious diseases in global health David Denning said numbers are growing, especially among people who take steroids – arthritis sufferers, for example – which suppress their immune systems.

“Most of us are either immune to the fungus or have a sufficiently healthy system to fight the infection,” he added. “But in asthma sufferers it can produce coughing and wheeziness, and in people with weak or damaged immune systems the fungus can cause pulmonary aspergillosis – a condition that can cause irreparable and sometime fatal damage to the lungs and sinuses.”

One previously “very fit” professional gardener who had asthma only as a child and went to the gym three times a week became very ill with pulmonary aspergillosis and said she was lucky to have survived. Read more

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Meningitis outbreak in Los Angeles, three dead so far

By JC Sevcik, http://www.upi.com

MeningitisThree have died due to meningitis in Los Angeles, the L.A. County Department of Public Health said Thursday.

The department announced their have been eight cases of invasive meningococcal disease in the county so far this year, the L.A. Times reports.

Invasive meningococcal disease causes meningitis, an inflammation of the the meninges, the protective membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord. It can be spread through exposure to sneezing and coughing and contact with saliva and mucous. Kissing, sharing beverages or cigarettes, and living in group settings can transmit the bacteria responsible for infection.

Symptoms usually onset within five days of exposure to the bacteria, and may include a high fever, stiff neck, aches, and an aversion to bright lights.

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