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Valley Fever cases expected to rise in SLO County

Posted: 10:52 PM, Sep 26, 2018
Updated: 2018-09-27 02:24:26-04

Health experts are noticing a record number of Valley fever cases, more than double compared to this time last year in San Luis Obispo County. They say that number is only expected to get worse.

It’s not contagious, but its flu-like symptoms can be misleading.

“I could barely move, I could barely get up, barely breathe, I went to the ER,” said Jennifer Ryan, who suffers from Valley fever.

It took more than one doctor visit to realize what was wrong.

Doctors first prescribed her steroids for pneumonia, but health experts say steroids can actually make Valley fever worse.

Dr. Royce Johnson works in Kern County where Valley fever is the worst in the state.

He spoke to a room full of county physicians at Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center Wednesday.

He showed them how to look for and treat the illness now that it is on an upward trend.

Deputy health officer Rick Rosen says the county is preparing for a peak.

“We expect to see several hundred more cases just over the next few months,” said Rosen.

Valley fever spreads when people are exposed to dry, dusty winds, but most people don’t know they have it until later in the year.

“Physicians tend not to think of Valley fever first so more likely people are thinking that it’s the flu,” added Rosen.

According to the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department, there were 368 reports of Valley fever in 2017. In 2018, nearly 300 cases are known, and the number is expected to increase.

What you should know:
-60% of people are not symptomatic
-40% of people develop an illness severe enough to seek medical attention
-10% of people develop an illness that is diagnosed as Valley fever
​-1-3% of cases are spread through blood to other body systems

Symptoms include cough, fever, chills, and fatigue. If any of these last more than a week you should ask your doctor to test for Valley fever. Those working in agriculture or construction jobs should be extremely careful.