California Reports Record High for Valley Fever Cases in 2019
The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced on Dec. 2 that new cases of Valley fever reached a record high of 9,004 reported cases in 2019. Above-average levels of rainfall during the 2018–2019 winter may have contributed to the rise in cases, according to a CDPH press release. Valley fever is caused by the fungus Coccidioides, which is present in the soil of semiarid areas such as the Central Valley of California. When soil is disturbed, such as by high winds or construction activities, the fungus’ spores can become airborne and inhaled. The disease can cause disability or death, along with symptoms such as fatigue, cough, fever, shortness of breath, headaches, body aches, joint pain, and rash.
CDPH urges individuals who live and work in the Central Valley and Central Coast regions of California to avoid breathing dusty air outside. The department stresses that construction workers and others who work primarily outdoors should especially learn about how to prevent Valley fever.
California law mandates that construction employers with worksites in counties where Valley fever is highly endemic provide all their employees with awareness training on the disease. Training must be provided annually and before employees begin work that is “reasonably anticipated to cause exposure to substantial dust disturbance.” Counties in California where Valley fever is highly endemic include Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, and Tulare.