In Fresno California, officials have said that they are extremely concerned about Valley Fever. They report that the numbers are on the rise, and it’s likely due to climates that are becoming warmer and drought conditions causing more of the dust that causes this illness.
Many people often find that this disease is often misdiagnosed, and it can be lethal for some. California’s farming heartland has been hit especially hard in the past few years, and officials have noted that reports of this Valley Fever have jumped dramatically between 2010 and 2011. Valley fever is most common in the drier parts of the US, Central and South America, and Mexico, and it only takes breathing the spores of the fungus filled dust that the wind whips up. Animal and human activity often stirs up dust, as well.
Dr. Gil Chavez, the Deputy Director of the Center for Infectious Diseases at the California Department of Public Health has said, “Research has shown that when soil is dry, and it is windy, more spores are likely to become airborne in endemic areas.” He has also said that the hotter, drier conditions have made more of the dust that carries the spores of the fungus that causes this condition.
There have been concerns about this disease for quite a while, but they became even more pronounced when over 3,000 “exceptionally vulnerable” inmates were ordered transferred from two of the San Joaquin Valley prisons. Several dozen have become ill and died from valley fever in the past few years. Just a day after that, state officials opened an investigation on an outbreak that occurred back in February. This outbreak caused 28 people who worked at two separate solar power plants in San Luis Obispo County to become ill.
Millions of Central California residents risk getting valley fever, but experts report that those that work in construction sites or dusty fields are more at risk for this condition, and certain ethnic groups or those with weakened immune systems may also be more likely to suffer from this disease. It is also thought that those that are new to the region and visitors might be more likely to contract valley fever.
The CDC reports that across the nation, the number of cases of valley fever rose by over 850 percent between 1998 and 2011. In 2011 alone, there were almost 22,000 cases, most of them in Arizona and California.
There were over 18,000 cases in California between 2001 and 2008, and in that time, 265 of those cases died. Arizona experienced 16,400 cases in 2011, which is a dramatic increase from 1,400 in 1998.
While part of the cause of the increase is drought conditions, Prof. John Galgiani, the director of the Valley Fever Center for Excellence at the University of Arizona says that an additional reason for the increase in cases is the number of new people that have moved to the area.
Ultimately, officials are doing more to make sure that the public is informed of the risk of valley fever and symptoms to help ensure that people get medical attention more quickly should they feel that they have the disease.