Valley Fever Outbreak Brings CDC Investigators to California

This month, CDC began investigating the deaths of more than three dozen California inmates who had contracted valley fever, a fungal disease. The deaths occurred at two state prisons — Avenal and Pleasant Valley — in San Joaquin Valley. The investigation comes after federal receiver J. Clark Kelso — who is charged with monitoring the state’s prison health care system — ordered the relocation of about 3,200 high-risk inmates from the two prisons on May 1.

Solar workers get sick

Authorities were also investigating a valley fever outbreak that sickened 28 workers at solar power plants under construction in Central California. State public health and work safety staff visited Topaz Solar Farm and California Valley Solar Ranch in San Luis Obispo County two months ago.

About Valley Fever

Infection begins when one or more airborne spores of the fungus are inhaled. These fungal spores become airborne when the soil is disturbed by winds, construction, farming and other activities. Valley Fever is not spread from person to person Many people have no symptoms or only mild flu-like symptoms and do not see a doctor.

The most common symptoms of patients with Valley Fever are fatigue, cough, fever, profuse sweating at night, loss of appetite, chest pain, headache and muscle and joint aches particularly of the ankles and knees. Some people develop red bumps on their shins or forearms that gradually turn brown. A small percentage of people (such as those with HIV/AIDS or diabetes) may develop severe pulmonary disease or other complications Serious complications include severe pneumonia, lung nodules, and disseminated disease, where the fungus spreads throughout the body. The disseminated form of valley fever can devastate the body, causing skin ulcers, abscesses, bone lesions, severe joint pain, heart inflammation, urinary tract problems, meningitis, and often death.

In most cases, the body can fight off infection and no specific course of treatment is necessary. The usual course of disease in healthy people is complete recovery within six months. Antifungal drugs may be needed for severe cases. There is no vaccine to prevent Valley Fever at this time. Avoid activities that involve dust, airborne dirt, or native desert soil. Some occupations recommend wearing masks.

Incidence of the illness have jumped 900% between 1998 and 2011, they think because of population growth into the desert and a dryer dust, because of the rainfall deficit we have, per CBS News.

 

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