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SLO County Public Health Department issues warning about Valley Fever

Posted at 3:09 PM, Aug 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-08-27 18:09:19-04

The San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department is warning people to be aware of the risk of Valley Fever.

The Public Health Department says there have been 283 cases of Valley Fever reported in the county in the first six months of 2018. There were 91 reported cases in the first six months of 2017.

Health experts say the recent increase is concerning because 2017 was already a record year for the number of cases in the state. Experts say there are typically more cases reported in the second half of the year, so the number of cases this year will likely increase more.

Valley Fever is caused by breathing in a fungus that lives in soil in parts of California and the southwest, including San Luis Obispo County. People typically end up breathing in spores from the fungus when soil is disturbed by things like wind or construction.  Most people are exposed to the fungus during the dry and windy summer months, but they’re often not diagnosed until the second half of the year.

Symptoms include cough, fever, exhaustion, and painful breathing for more than two weeks. If you have these symptoms, you should tell your doctor and ask to be tested for Valley Fever. Most people who become infected with Valley Fever don’t have any symptoms and don’t need treatment. About 30-40 percent get flu-like symptoms, but get well on their own within a few weeks.  Between one and five percent have serious symptoms. The disease can end up spreading through their body, putting them at a higher risk of dying from complications. People with the more serious form of the disease may need to take medication for the rest of their lives.

Health experts say there are several steps you can take to lower your risk of getting Valley Fever. Avoid areas with a lot of dust, especially if it is windy. Close your windows and set the air conditioner on recycle. Talk to your doctor if you start to experience flu-like symptoms for several weeks.

The San Luis Obispo Public Health Department says the drought may have created conditions, which allowed the fungus to grow more rapidly.

Valley Fever cases reported in San Luis Obispo County:
2017: 368
2016: 257
2015: 53
2014: 33
2013: 82
2012: 135
2011: 165
2010: 152

August is Valley Fever Awareness Month in California.