NewsLocal News


SLO County Public Health reports Valley Fever cases are going down, possibly underreported

Valley Fever is endemic to SLO County which means that we will see cases every year. Despite expecting a spike in cases, San Luis Obispo County Public Health Officials are reporting a decrease.
Posted at 6:46 PM, Mar 03, 2023

Valley Fever is endemic to San Luis Obispo County which means that we will see cases every year.

Despite expecting a spike in cases, San Luis Obispo County Public Health officials are reporting a decrease. But they say that doesn’t mean it’s gone, it might just be underreported.

Valley Fever or Cocci is a disease transmitted by the simple act of breathing in dust. But not just any dust.

A graphic on the California Department Of Public Health’s (CDPH) website shows how Valley Fever fungus grows in the soil, the spores are lifted into the air, and with a deep breath of the fungus, it can easily infect your lungs and spread to other organs. To view the graphic, click here.

“Valley Fever is going to sound a lot like COVID-19, a lot like influenza. So cough, headache, fatigue, and while that can be naturally fought off by the body and most people — about six out of 10 — will naturally fight it off, some people might need medical intervention, so what we want people to feel empowered to do is to test,” said Jessie Burmester, an epidemiologist for the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department.

According to the CDPH, around 80 people die of Valley Fever and more than 1,000 are hospitalized every year in California.

The agency said more than 65% of cases are reported in the Central Valley and the Central Coast.

The SLO County Public Health Department reported 282 cases in 2019, but then there was a drop. According to the health agency, there were 187 cases reported in 2020, 182 cases in 2021, and 148 in 2022. Health officials say the 2022 number could increase as investigations are completed.

“While we don't really know the cause of the lower numbers, it could be hypothesized that it is due to COVID-19, maybe limited testing, people weren't seeing their primary care doctors, and possibly even less travel,” Burmester said. “There's also seasonality and when we have high periods of drought like the 2012 through 2016 drought, what we saw right after that was a massive bloom and a lot of incidents or new cases of Cocci or Valley Fever. ”

Valley Fever is not contagious so it doesn’t pass from one person to another, but it can affect pets and other animals.

What steps can you take to prevent Valley Fever?

The CDPH recommends keeping doors and windows closed on windy days, wetting down soil before digging, facing away from the wind if digging, and wearing an N-95 mask in dusty areas.

For more tips, click here.

SLO County Public Health recommends testing if you are feeling those flu-like symptoms for several weeks or more. Just reach out to your healthcare provider and request a Valley Fever test.