Valley Fever Cases Climb in California
For the second consecutive year, the California Department of Public Health has announced a new high in cases of valley fever, a disease caused by inhalation of fungal spores endemic to the American Southwest. More than 7,400 cases were reported to CDPH during 2017, up from approximately 5,300 in 2016.  Valley fever, also known as coccidioidomycosis, can cause flu-like symptoms. In rare cases it can lead to pneumonia or infection of the brain, joints, bone, skin, or other organs, according to CDPH. The spores that cause valley fever become airborne during dust storms or other activities that disturb soil, such as construction, excavation, agricultural work, and archaeological work. Outdoor workers are at higher risk of developing the disease, as are African Americans, Filipinos, pregnant women, and people with weakened immune systems. CDPH advises employers to train workers on valley fever symptoms and to use control measures such as wetting soil before digging or similar tasks. The agency encourages people in endemic areas to wear properly fitted N95 respirators when outside on windy days or when engaging in activities that disturb soil.  For more information, read the CDPH press release.  Worldwide, about 4 million people live in areas where the fungus that causes valley fever is endemic in the soil, according to the Valley Fever Center for Excellence at the University of Arizona.