Public health officials in California are raising alarm bells about the heightened risk of Valley fever spreading throughout the state this summer and fall.
Valley fever, also known as coccidioidomycosis or “cocci,” can lead to prolonged respiratory problems such as cough, fever, chest pain, body aches, and fatigue.
The disease is caused by breathing in fungus spores that grow in dust and dirt, which can be spread into the air after a rainy season.
Experts from the University of California, Berkley, and the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) have found that drought followed by heavy rainfall increases the transmission of the fungus responsible for Valley fever.
The historic wet winter experienced in Southern California has raised concerns among experts and CDPH officials, who are urging the public to be cautious and educated about the symptoms of Valley fever, particularly to distinguish it from other respiratory illnesses, such as COVID-19.
The symptoms of Valley fever can persist for a month or more, and specialized laboratory tests are required to confirm the diagnosis.
If an individual tests negative for COVID-19 but experiences respiratory symptoms lasting longer than a week, it is recommended to consult a doctor to determine if Valley fever could be the cause.
Dr. Tomás Aragón, a health official, emphasized the importance of early detection, stating, “To protect yourself and your family, know the symptoms of Valley fever, which will help ensure early detection.
Individuals with lingering cough and fatigue should talk to a healthcare provider about Valley fever, especially if they have been outdoors in dusty air.”
Geographic Prevalence and Prevention Tips
Rates of Valley fever infections are highest in California’s Central Valley and Central Coast regions, encompassing Kern, Kings, San Luis Obispo, Fresno, Tulare, Madera, and Monterey counties.
However, there has been an upward trend in Valley fever cases in other areas of the state, including the Northern San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.
To mitigate exposure to Valley fever, health officials recommend the following preventive measures:
- Avoiding Dust: Avoid outdoor areas where Valley fever is common.
- Indoor Safety: Remain indoors with windows and doors closed on windy and dusty days.
- Preventive Digging: Wet down soil and dirt before digging to avoid stirring up dust.
- Use Proper Masks: Consider wearing a properly fitted N95 mask when exposed to dusty air outdoors in affected areas.
Valley fever can be severe enough to disrupt daily activities, such as work or school, for some individuals. Staying informed about the disease’s symptoms and taking necessary precautions can help protect yourself and your family from this potentially harmful infection.
Source: NBC Los Angeles