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Officials address Valley Fever concerns amidst the high wind event

Posted: 3:52 PM, Oct 11, 2021
Updated: 2021-10-11 20:14:06-04
Hospital hallway

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — As the high wind event continues many are concerned with how it may affect their health. One concern that people have during days like this is getting valley fever.

According to the CDC there are about 15,000 cases in the United States each year and most cases are from California and Arizona. They also state that nearly 40% of people who get Valley Fever are hospitalized.

“Many of us are going to get valley fever and not even know we have it, but some of us are really going to experience more significant symptoms,” Michelle Corson Public Information Officer, Kern County Public Health Department

What is Valley Fever?

Valley fever is an infection caused by fungus. The fungus is known to live in the soil in the Southwestern United States. People can get valley fever by breathing in the microscopic fungal spores from the air.

Corson said while you may not know you have Valley Fever there are a few different symptoms to be aware of.

“It can be everything from a headache, a cough, you can also get a rash, but sometimes it can turn into disseminated Valley Fever and affect different parts of your body and it can become very serious,” said Corson.

Symptoms of Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis):

Many people who are exposed to the fungus Coccidioides never have symptoms.1 Other people may have symptoms that go away on their own after weeks to months. If your symptoms last for more than a week, contact your healthcare provider.

Symptoms of Valley fever include:

  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Night sweats
  • Muscle aches or joint pain
  • Rash on upper body or legs

In extremely rare cases, the fungal spores can enter the skin through a cut, wound, or splinter and cause a skin infection.

How soon do the symptoms appear?

Symptoms of Valley fever may appear between 1 and 3 weeks after a person breathes in the fungal spores.

How long do the symptoms last?

The symptoms of Valley fever usually last for a few weeks to a few months.34 However, some patients have symptoms that last longer than this, especially if the infection becomes severe.

Severe Valley fever

Approximately 5 to 10% of people who get Valley fever will develop serious or long-term problems in their lungs.4 In an even smaller percent of people (about 1%), the infection spreads from the lungs to other parts of the body, such as the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord), skin, or bones and joints.46
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

When it comes to valley fever symptoms Corson said they may be similar to COVID-19.

“These can be very similar to COVID-19 and flu-like symptoms, so it becomes important to really pay attention following a wind event like this, if these are persistent symptoms that don’t go away, talk to your doctor,” said Corson.

Heather Heinks with the Valley Air District said during high wind events, it's best to stay inside and protect yourself.

“Really just maybe alter your activities for today, be aware that there might be significant blowing dust from the dry soils out in the valley, picking up dust and making a haze and poor air quality in the Kern County area,” Heather Heinks, Outreach and Communications Manager, Valley Air District

Heinks also added if you must be outdoors, use an N-95 mask.

“Certainly, put on a mask, in this instance, the COVID masks can help a little bit. Dust is bigger, so it’s not going to hurt to have your COVID mask on outside, but we always talk about getting a fitted N-95 mask if you’re going to be out in the midst of heavy particulate matter pollution and it should be fitted properly, and you should consult your doctor.”

While this is the first high wind event of the season, it won't be the last.

Heinks also said that to stay updated download the Valley Air District and the EPA Air Now app for updates.