The 412th Medical Group at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., has reported four cases of Valley Fever in the last 12 months.
Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis) is a fungal illness that usually affects the lungs. It is spread through spores in the air when the dirt is disturbed.
People can get Valley Fever if they breathe in the dust from the dirt that contains fungal spores. Fungal spores can get into the air when dirt containing the fungus is disturbed by digging, during construction, or under strong winds.
About 60 percent of persons infected are asymptomatic. Most people who have symptoms develop a flu-like illness with cough, fever, chest pain, headache, muscle aches, rash and tiredness that can last a month. Less than one percent of infected persons develop disseminated Valley Fever, which occurs when the infection spreads to other parts of the body.
When Valley Fever is suspected, the doctor can order an antibody blood test or culture. Although many persons with Valley Fever require no treatment, all persons with symptoms should seek medical attention.
Environments that cause dirt/dust inhalation (where Valley Fever is common) increase the risk of getting the illness, however, Valley Fever is not transmitted from one person to another. Statistics show that some populations are more susceptible to Valley Fever infection than others. This includes persons who are immunocompromised, in the third trimester of pregnancy, the elderly and persons of African or Filipino descent.
Kern County has the highest rate of Valley Fever infections in California with rates varying between 75 to 304 cases per 100,000 people, according to 412th MDG.
Other areas of the state are impacted as well. Already in 2017, media reported 30 cases and two deaths from Valley Fever in San Luis Obispo County in 2017.
There is currently no vaccine. Persons should avoid exposure to dusty air in areas where Valley Fever is common. Those exposed to dust during their jobs or outside activities in these areas should consider respiratory protection such as a properly-fitted N95 mask.
Please contact the Edwards Public Health Office at 661-277-2244 for additional information about Valley Fever.