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What is Cryptococcus infection (cryptococcosis)?

Cryptococcosis (Krip-toe-coc-o-sis) is a fungal disease caused by Cryptococcus neoformans or Cryptococcus gattii. Most people do not get sick with cryptococcosis, but some people are more likely than others to get this disease. For these people, cryptococcosis can cause serious symptoms of lung, brain and spinal cord disease, such as headaches, fever, cough, shortness of breath, and night sweats.

Can animals transmit cryptococcosis to me?

Not directly. Cryptococcus neoformans is found in the droppings of wild birds (such as pigeons). When dried bird droppings are stirred up, this can make dust containing Cryptococcus neoformans go into the air. People can stir up this dust and then breathe it in when they work, play, or walk in areas where birds have been. Pets, such as dogs and cats, can also get sick with cryptococcosis from this dust, but people do not get cryptococcosis from dogs and cats.

Cryptococcus gattii lives in the soil and areas on or around trees. Animals and humans can get it by breathing it in around areas where Cryptococcus gattii is found, but animals and humans cannot give the disease to each other. A person's age and health status may affect his or her immune system, increasing the chances of getting sick. People who are more likely than others to get Cryptococcus neoformans infection include organ transplant patients, people with HIV/AIDS, and people receiving treatment for cancer. It does not usually affect healthy people.

Cryptococcus gattii can infect both healthy people and people who have problems with their immune system, including patients taking corticosteroid medications and organ transplant patients.

How can I find out more about cryptococcosis?

Learn more about the disease by referring to CDC's Cryptococcus site.


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