Experts Call This Year’s Valley Fever Numbers “Catastrophic”
2018 is proving to be a particularly nasty year for Valley fever in California’s Central Valley, and experts believe climate change may be partly to blame.
A “catastrophic” trend
The number of reported Valley fever cases set a record in California in 2016, with more than 6,000 infections. That number jumped to 8,103 in 2017, an increase of more than a third—growth many experts link to climate change. This year could be the worst yet…
“We’re seeing a huge increase in new cases in the past two-and-a-half years. It’s striking,” said Ian McHardy, co-director of the Center for Valley Fever at the University of California, Davis. “We’re seeing double and triple the cases. It’s a catastrophic change, and it’s getting worse.”
What is Valley fever?
Valley fever is a fungal infection of the lungs acquired when a person breathes in Coccidioides, a fungus found in some soils. Coccidioides is most prevalent in the counties of Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, Monterey, San Luis Obispo and Tulare. Symptoms of the illness include rash, fever, cough and chest pain, shortness of breath, headache, fatigue and night sweats. People with preexisting lung conditions have a higher risk of complications and hospitalization.
Why the surge?
Experts blame a series of dust storms for the rise in Valley fever cases, as the winds kick spores up into the air. Those dust storms are believed to be increasing because of climate change. Needless to say, scientists aren’t having trouble drawing a line between the two.
What’s being done?
The governor signed three bills last month aimed at combatting Valley fever. The most recent state budget also allotted $8 billion in funding for research and education.
Read more at CalMatters.