August 10, 2023

California Issues Alert about Valley Fever

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) warns of a potential increased risk of Valley Fever across the state this month. Valley Fever, or coccidioidomycosis, is a respiratory disease caused by inhaling spores of the Coccidioides fungus, which lives in the soil in the Southwestern United States and in parts of Central and South America. CDPH states that cases of Valley Fever typically increase in the summers following rainy winters.

“California's dry conditions, combined with recent heavy winter rains, could result in increasing Valley Fever cases in the coming months,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Tomás Aragón. 

Valley Fever has similar symptoms to COVID-19, including cough, fever, shortness of breath, and headache, according to CDC. Infected people may also develop a rash on their upper body or legs and experience muscle aches or joint pain. Symptoms may appear between one and three weeks following inhalation of Coccidioides spores and can last more than a month.

People who work outdoors, especially those who dig soil, have increased risk of exposure to Coccidioides. CDPH recommends staying indoors on windy, dusty days and closing windows and doors. Wetting soil before digging can help prevent exposure.

According to CDPH data, Valley Fever cases in California jumped from 2,330 in 2014 to 9,090 in 2019. In 2021, the last year for which CDPH has complete data, there were 8,030 cases in the state, or a little more than 20 cases per 100,000 residents.

CDC data for the entire U.S. shows similar increases, with cases climbing nationally from 8,232 in 2014 to more than 20,000 in 2019, resulting in approximately 200 deaths per year. Most cases during this period—54 percent—occurred in Arizona, although California’s share is on the rise.

For more information on Valley Fever, visit the websites of CDPH, CDC, the Arizona Department of Health Services, and the Valley Fever Center for Excellence.