A life-threatening fungal disease spreads rapidly throughout California, health professionals say.
The number of Valley Fever cases increased in eight percent in 2018 from the previous year – up to more than 8,100 from more than 7,500, according to a report released by the California Department of Public Health last week.
The increase from 2016, when the cases were around 5,700, was even more shocking – a sharp increase of 42 percent.
Kern County, located about 133 miles from Los Angeles, was hit hardest and documented slightly more than 3,000 cases – 23 percent from 2017 and 48 percent from 2016.
Nine dead were admitted to county in 201
Valley Fever cases rose eight percent in 2018 from 2017 and 42 percent from 2016, a report from the California Department of Public Health revealed
Counties, which also saw a large number of cases include Los Angeles ( 1,036), Fresno (632), Tulare (425) and San Luis Obispo (353).
& # 39; We've seen many more cases recently, & # 39; told Michelle Rivera, a health education specialist for Fresno County, SFGATE. "Not all providers test for it, so there may be more cases out there."
Health officials suspect some reasons for the increase in cases, including precipitation that affects the way the fungus grows and spreads, more people moving to high-risk areas and an increased level of detecting and diagnosing the disease.
Valley Fever, also known as coccidioidomycosis, is an infection caused by a fungus found in the soil.
The fungus called Coccidioides blossoms in areas that are hot and dry, making California's climate the perfect area for eruptions.
Valley Fever is contracted by breathing into spores in the air and cannot spread from person to person.
Symptoms appear one to three weeks later and include rash, fatigue, headache, fever, shortness of breath, cough and muscle or joint pain.
Because the symptoms are similar to other diseases, getting a proper diagnosis may be delayed.
The disease generally goes away alone after a few weeks or months without treatment, but some people may receive antifungal drugs to reduce the severity of the symptoms.
In a few cases, the infection can spread from the lungs to the brain, bones, skin or eyes, causing blindness, skin abscesses, lung failure and occasional death.
Ca. 10,000 cases are reported in the United States annually, mainly in Arizona and California, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Last week, an American court appealed a prison trial in California and decided that inmates could not hold government officials responsible for contracting Valley Fever.
Ian Wallach, a lawyer for some of the inmates, said the ruling was devastating.
& # 39; Families from over 40 inmates who died and 100 who were infected and in need of lifelong treatment are left to do themselves & # 39; He told The Associated Press.