Valley Fever still on the rise in Kern County

Kern County Public Health and Services Department announced this week that according to preliminary data, the county saw 2,929 confirmed cases of Valley Fever, including nine fatalities this year.

“This is the fourth consecutive year that Valley Fever cases have increased in Kern,” said a spokesperson.

“In Kern County, anyone who develops symptoms such as cough, fever, or difficulty breathing, lasting two weeks or more, should ask their healthcare provider about Valley Fever,” said Matt Constantine, director of Kern County Public Health Services. “Valley Fever is endemic to Kern County so we all need to be aware of the symptoms and ways to reduce our exposure.”

Coccidioidomycosis, also known as Valley Fever, is an illness caused by a fungus that lives in the soil and dirt. People and animals can get exposed by breathing in spores of the fungus. The spores are small and not visible to the naked eye. About 60 percemt of infected people will not develop symptoms.

People who do develop symptoms can have fever, cough, chest pain, muscle or joint aches, tiredness, headaches, weight loss and rash. In severe infections, the fungus can infect the brain, joints, bone, skin or other organs. In rare cases, infection can lead to death. Most people who get Valley Fever fully recover and do not get this disease again; however, those with severe infections may need medication for several months. Valley Fever cannot be spread from one person to another or from animals to people.

Valley Fever can be difficult to prevent but recommendations that may help include the following.

When it is windy outside and the air is dusty, especially during dust storms:

• Stay inside and keep windows and doors closed

• While driving, keep car windows shut and use “recirculating” air conditioning if available

When working or playing in areas with open dirt:

• Wet soil before disturbing it to reduce dust

• Wear an N95 mask or respirator

For more information call 661-321-3000 or visit www.kerncountyvalleyfever.com.

Story First Published: 2018-04-20