Drought causes valley fever cases to decline in SLO County - KSBY.com | San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara Area News

Drought causes valley fever cases to decline in SLO County

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After a steady increase in valley fever cases in San Luis Obispo County, the drought has apparently caused a decline.

Valley fever is caused by a fungus that lives in the ground. It can make you very sick if you breathe in dust containing the tiny spore.

With so much dirt and dust around because of the drought, one could presume cases would be on the rise, but health officials say the opposite is happening.

According to statistics from San Luis Obispo County Public Health, the numbers of reported cases went from about 40 in 2000 to about 175 in 2011. Cases were most prevalent in northern SLO County. 

However, in 2012, the first year of the drought, there's a considerable decrease.

"If it's not stirred up by rains, we see a decrease. It goes quiet for a while and now with the rain, we fully expect to see an increase in numbers going forward," said SLO County Public Health Officer Penny Borenstein.

Most people who contract valley fever will have mild symptoms or none at all.

SLO County Public Health data also shows 40 percent of people will have symptoms that resemble pneumonia or a cold. In some cases, symptoms are even more severe, and in one percent of cases it can be fatal.

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine or cure for valley fever.

The best defense against the disease, according to public health officials, is to avoid inhaling dust or dirt and staying indoors on very windy days.

Valley fever is almost non-existent in Santa Barbara County.

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