The number of Valley Fever cases reported in California rose to 5,372 in 2016 — a jump of more than 70 percent from the previous year. It was the highest number since the state started tracking Valley Fever in 1995. The previous record was 5,213 cases, in 2011.
Historically, about three-quarters of cases have been in the state’s heavily agricultural San Joaquin Valley. Kern County, an agricultural area that encompasses Bakersfield and stretches into the Mojave Desert, had by far the highest number of cases in 2016, with 2,238.
The fungal infection, known as coccidioidomycosis, or “cocci,” is most common in the southern portion of the San Joaquin Valley and along the Central Coast of California. State health officials say they’re not sure what caused the recent increase, but “climatic and environmental factors” could have increased the risk of exposure to the airborne spores that cause the disease, according to the California Department of Public Health.
Most infected people will not show signs of illness. Those who do become ill with Valley Fever may exhibit flu-like symptoms that can last for two weeks or more. While most people recover fully, some may develop more severe complications of Valley Fever, which can include pneumonia and infections of the brain, joints, bone, skin or other organs.
To read more about the spike in Valley Fever cases, read Pauline Bartolone’s coverage.