A recent increase in coccidioidomycosis, also known as Valley Fever, is an illness caused by a fungus that lives in the soil and dirt.
People and animals can get sick by breathing in a form of the Valley Fever fungus called spores. About 60% of infected people will not get sick.
People who do get sick can have fever, cough, chest pain, muscle or joint aches, tiredness, headaches, weight loss and rash. In severe infections, the fungus can infect the brain, joints, bone, skin, or other organs. Most people who get Valley Fever fully recover and do not get this disease again.
Valley Fever cannot be spread from one person to another.
Valley Fever is diagnosed by a doctor. Your doctor can order a blood test, skin test, and chest x-ray which are used to make the diagnosis. If you are diagnosed, your doctor will determine if you need treatment.
Anyone can get Valley Fever. People who disturb dirt or soil when working or playing (construction, farming, military, etc.) may be at increased risk of getting the disease. Persons 60 years and older, African Americans, Filipinos, Hispanics, pregnant women, persons with diabetes, and persons with conditions that weaken their immune system (cancer, HIV, organ transplant, chemotherapy, or steroid treatment) are at greater risk for more severe or disseminated forms of Valley Fever infection.
Kern County Public Health Officer Dr. Claudia Jonah emphasizes “Early diagnosis of Valley Fever is a key part of recovering quickly and completely from this infection.”
Recommendations that may help reduce the risk of getting Valley Fever, especially during dust storms or windy conditions, include:
- Stay inside and keep windows and doors closed;
- While driving, keep car windows shut and use “recirculating” air conditioning, if available;
- When working or playing in areas with open dirt, wet down soil before disturbing it to reduce dust; and
- If you must be outdoors, consider wearing an N95 mask or respirator (available at drug and hardware stores).
For more information, visit www.kernpublichealth.com or call (661) 321-3000.