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State health officials say Valley Fever cases are on the rise

State health officials say Valley...

SALINAS, Calif. - UPDATE 7/21/2017 5:30 p.m.:

State health officials say Valley Fever cases are on the rise statewide and on the Central Coast.

According to the California Department of Public Health, in 2016, there were 5,372 new cases of Valley Fever reported, with an incidence rate of 13.7 cases per 100,000 people. They report it is similar to the recent peak in 2011, where there was 5,213 cases.

Valley Fever is caused by a spore in a fungus grown in certain types of soil. People get infected by breathing the dust when the soil is disrupted.

The most cases in 2016 happened in Kern County, where there were 2,238 cases. Los Angeles and Fresno Counties had the second and third most reported cases with 731 and 601, respectively.

On the Central Coast, Monterey County saw more than double the number from 2015 (37 case) to 2016 (77 cases). Both Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties saw fewer than ten cases both years. Health officials say there was one death in Monterey County in 2016.

"It causes concern because it's not one of those illnesses that you're expecting people to die from,” said Dr. Maximiliano Cuevas, CEO of Clinica de Salud del Valle de Salinas. “Most of the time it's self-limiting, it goes away. Every now and then you get somebody that's sick and requires treatment."

One person who had a severe case of Valley Fever is Salinas resident Miguel Santa Cruz, who has been in and out of the hospital for months.

He thought he contracted the fungal disease doing yardwork back in December, though he wasn’t diagnosed until February. His symptoms mirrored other ailments, and doctors originally believed he had strep throat and pneumonia.

"Night sweats, unable to sleep, bone aches,” Santa Cruz said. “The coughing led me to go to the hospital the first time around."

Those most at risk are African Americans, Filipinos, Hispanics, pregnant women, older people and those with weakened immune systems.

"Then you have the environmental factors, say the people who are out working in dusty environments,” Dr. Cuevas said. “So we'd put farm workers in that group, we’d put military personnel in that group, construction workers, they're at risk. Even the weekend gardeners, most of us with our little pick and shovel working the garden."

The report also shows most of the cases involved men between the ages of 45-54. While most of the cases happened between August and December, October was by far the most active. Dr. Cuevas said so far he is unaware of any cases at his clinics this year.

No reason behind the increase, but weather could be a factor.

"Given the way weather conditions have been, it's sort of a set up to be able to have or be able to see this organism sort of flourishing in dry dusty kind of soil," Dr. Cuevas said.

As for Santa Cruz, he hopes other people learn from his story.

“Get it checked, don't be shy and ask, ‘I may have Valley Fever.’ Just guide your doctor because most times they don't know. They just think you have the common cold and it could be something worst,” Santa Cruz said.

Valley Fever is not contagious and is normally diagnosed through blood tests. While many cases go away on its own, others require long-term anti-fungal treatments. As for prevention, there’s no real way to stop it but people can reduce their risk by avoiding outdoor dust.

Click here to read the full report.
 

ORIGINAL POST:

According to the California Department of Public Health, in 2016, there were 5,372 new cases of Valley Fever reported, with an incidence rate of 13.7 cases per 100,000 people. They report it is similar to the recent peak in 2011, where there was 5,213 cases.

Valley Fever is caused by the spore of a fungus that grows in certain types of soil. People get infected breathing the spores in the dust when the soil is disturbed.

The most cases in 2016 happened in Kern County, where there were 2,238 cases. Los Angeles and Fresno Counties had the second and third most reported cases with 731 and 601, respectively.

On the Central Coast, Monterey County saw more than double the number from 2015 (37 case) to 2016 (77 cases). Both Santa Cruz and San Benito Counties saw fewer than ten cases both years. Health officials say there was one death in Monterey County in 2016.

Tonight on KION, Mariana Hicks speaks to local doctor about Valley Fever, as well as a man who has been battling it since last year.

 


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