Risk of Valley Fever Spread in California

Public Health Alert: Increased Risk of Valley Fever Spread in California This Summer and Fall

Health officials are raising concerns about a heightened threat of Valley fever transmission throughout California during the upcoming summer and fall seasons.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has emphasized that Valley fever, also referred to as coccidioidomycosis or “cocci,” primarily affects the respiratory system, causing prolonged respiratory issues like:

    • Persistent cough
    • Fever
    • Chest pain
    • Muscle aches
    • Fatigue
    • Exhaustion

In severe cases, symptoms can be debilitating enough to necessitate missed work, school, or daily activities. Valley fever is contracted by inhaling fungal spores commonly found in dust and soil. However, increased rainfall can disperse these spores into the air.

Dr. Tomás Aragón, Director and State Public Health Officer at CDPH, has expressed concern that the combination of California’s dry conditions and recent heavy winter rains may lead to a surge in Valley fever cases in the coming months. Research from the University of California, Berkeley, and CDPH has highlighted that periods of drought followed by substantial rainfall significantly enhance the transmission of the fungus responsible for Valley fever.

Given the unusually wet winter in Southern California, experts and CDPH officials are urging the public to exercise caution and educate themselves on distinguishing this illness from other respiratory conditions like COVID-19.

According to CDPH, Valley fever symptoms may persist for more than a month, requiring specialized laboratory tests for accurate diagnosis and differentiation from other illnesses.

In cases where a COVID-19 test comes back negative but respiratory symptoms continue for more than a week, authorities recommend seeking medical guidance to explore the possibility of Valley fever.

Dr. Tomás Aragón stresses, “To safeguard yourself and your family, it’s important to recognize the symptoms of Valley fever, which enables early detection. Individuals experiencing persistent cough and fatigue should consult a healthcare provider regarding Valley fever, particularly if they have spent time outdoors in dusty environments.”

While Valley fever infections are most prevalent in the Central Valley and Central Coast regions, including Kern, Kings, San Luis Obispo, Fresno, Tulare, Madera, and Monterey counties, officials have noted an increase in cases in other parts of the state, including the Northern San Joaquin Valley and Southern California.

To minimize exposure to Valley fever, officials recommend the following measures:

  • Limit outdoor activities in dust-prone areas where Valley fever is common.
  • Stay indoors and keep windows and doors closed during windy, dusty conditions.
  • Before digging, dampen soil and dirt to prevent dust from becoming airborne.
  • Consider wearing a properly fitted N95 mask when outdoors in dusty locations.

Protect yourself and your loved ones by staying informed and taking proactive steps to mitigate the risk of Valley fever transmission in California. Read more

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