News & Press

Jump in Valley Fever Cases

California health authorities have just begun an investigation into more than 5,000 suspected cases of coccidioidomycosis, otherwise known as Valley Fever. The number of cases this year far outpaces the investigations in prior years. Such cases, so far, considered “provisional” includes suspect, probable, and confirmed cases. The California Department of Public Health says it doesn’t yet know why there has been an increase in suspected infections. As of October 31, 5,212 cases were under investigation, according to CDPH. For the same period in 2016, there were 3,827 provisional cases and 2,343 in 2015. The number of Valley Fever cases in California rose to a record level in 2016, with 5,372 confirmed cases, a jump of 71 percent from the previous year.

Valley Fever is caused by a fungal spore that resides in the top layer of dirt in many parts of California, particularly in the Central Valley. It is released into the air when the soil is disturbed.  Also known as California Fever, San Joaquin Valley Fever, and Desert Rheumatism, it produces flu-like symptoms, including fever, night sweats, fatigue, coughing, chest pains, headaches, rashes and achy joints.

Most people infected with Valley Fever won’t feel any symptoms at all, but in severe cases, it can cause long-term disability and even death. Such victims usually are the elderly, pregnant women and those with compromised immune systems. Some ethnicities, such as African Americans and Filipinos, are at increased risk, as well.

It is most prevalent in Fresno, Kings, Kern, Madera, Merced, Tulare and San Luis Obispo counties. This year, health officials have begun 1,855 Valley Fever investigations in Kern County, 588 in Fresno County, 347 in Tulare County and even 681 in Los Angeles County.

Construction workers at risk for Valley Fever include digging, truck driving, and those operating heavy equipment. Mitigation strategies include keeping workers upwind of soil being disturbed, watering ground before it is disturbed, and otherwise reducing dust.