“It’s been really hot and dry and now we’re starting to get a little bit of rain. Then usually after the rain, we’d get a little wind, right? We get a nice light breeze and the sun’s shining, and you say ‘oh boy the rain washed things’ and I’m outdoors, but that’s where the Valley Fever is and it’s growing,” said Dr. Augustine D. Munoz, a pulmonologist with Kern Medical.
He says from mid to late October is when the infection is at its peak.
“We are seeing a lot more cases. Already, I think we are ahead of last year,” said Dr. Munoz.
According to the Public Health Department, nearly 3,000 people were infected in Kern County last year. Nine people died.
That is why Kern Medical partnered with Foothill High to educate students on the signs and symptoms of Valley Fever.
He says many people don’t even know they have it. Hitting home for one teacher.
“He got it. It was one of those things that we had to know about. We have three girls, you know,” said Raelyn Ruffus, a biology teacher at Foothill High.
Born and raised in Northern California, Ruffus was not familiar with the infection until her husband was diagnosed last year.
“I need to know the signs, I need to know the symptoms, just to be a good mom…”
And a good teacher. She continues to partner with the Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical to make sure her students know the ins and outs of the infection.
“They took pieces involved in Valley Fever. They took either Coxey, an antibody, a killer-T, a helper-T, all those crazy things and they actually animated them into a character. Because we’re actually making characters for the games,” said Ruffus.
Like Dr. Munoz, Ruffus believes this visit, games and partnership will help students survive Valley Fever as well as help someone they know.
“This is our pool, this is our future. So, hopefully they will catch it and go with it,” said Dr. Munoz.
Ruffus is also working on ways to get the parents involved. Kern Medical says if you would like them to stop by your school, you can request them at any time.