BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — The number of people diagnosed with Valley Fever has continued to rise over the last 5 years.
Last year there were nearly 3,000 people diagnosed, the highest amount since 2006. Health officials say protecting yourself with masks and staying indoors can save you from a trip to the doctor.
“When it’s dusty and dry I would stay indoors,” says Heidi He a nurse practitioner at Comprehensive Pulmonary & Critical Care Associates.
Valley Fever is a fungal infection that lives in the soil and grows spores. When the soil is disrupted the spores can break off. Spores can travel up to 75 miles.
“On windy days you are going to have more of those spores fracturing off and becoming airborne,” said Royce Johnson, medical director of the Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical
Royce also recommends wearing an N95 mask.
“It’s an industrial mask that we use in healthcare for airborne precautions. As you can see it has NIOSH N-95 on the bottom. That tells you’re the pore size and this mask has a pore size that excludes valley fever very easily,” said Royce.
People, " exposed to the fungus never have symptoms. Other people may have flu-like symptoms that can appear between 1-3 weeks after exposure," according to the Valley Fever Institute.
Symptoms can range from shortness of breath, fever, coughing, and feeling tired.