Study shows Valley Fever could spike in California

Amanda Aguilar Image
Wednesday, February 8, 2023
Study shows Valley Fever could spike in California
A recent study by UC Berkeley shows Valley Fever could spike in California due to years of drought and our recent storms.

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Jose Lafontaine retired last week after 16 years as a corrections officer at Corcoran State Prison.

It's not something he wanted to do, but it's just one of many parts of his life that were impacted after getting infected with Valley Fever in December of 2018.

"I was in great health back then," he said. "Walking throughout the institution, I couldn't breathe while talking. I couldn't talk and walk at the same time. I said, 'Something's wrong.' So it took me a while because I didn't want to go see a doctor right away. Once I did, I went to a local urgent care and I was misdiagnosed."

But Jose knew something was wrong.

He went to his primary care doctor, explained his symptoms and mentioned he worked at the prison.

The doctor immediately got him tested for Valley Fever or coccidioidomycosis.

In January 2019, he was diagnosed with it and went through an antifungal treatment for about nine months.

"I didn't think I was going to make it," he said. "It was terrible. I couldn't get out of bed. I couldn't move. Profuse sweating at night, lots of coughing and rashes."

According to health experts, the fungus lives in dust and soil. The spores are released into the air after the ground is disturbed by humans or weather.

"If there are storms and particularly if it's windy, dusty, be careful when you're going outside," says Dr. John Zweifler with the Fresno County Department of Public Health. "If you're on a construction site where they're digging up dirt, that is another real high-risk situation."

Jose learned he got infected while working near a construction site at work.

He says his life has changed since then, as his health isn't what it used to be.

Doctors say the majority of people recover from the infection -- some don't even realize they are infected.

However, they say certain groups are at higher risk than others.

Jose has found some relief through a Valley Fever Survivors organization and encourages everyone to learn more about the disease so they can take action immediately if they suspect they have it.

Doctors say it's difficult to avoid breathing in the fungus. The most you can do to prevent it is to stay cautious when outside.

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