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The Madera Tribune

Valley fever is region’s ancient plague

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webmaster | 05/09/13

“Nationwide, the number of valley fever cases rose by more than 850 percent from 1998 through 2011.”
— Gosia Wozniacka, May 5, 2013 (Associated Press)

There were days when I never coughed. However, the California Department of Public Health warns that a dry, persistent cough is one of the warning signals. However, the disease affects various people differently. Here, in California’s Central Valley, it’s so common that it is often overlooked by physicians who grew up in the area, but nationally and internationally it’s unique and virtually unknown to those who come from other areas.

The disease lurks in the soil of the San Joaquin Valley, as well as in certain parts of Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and northwestern Mexico. It probably developed during prehistoric periods and is dormant during long, dry spells. However, when it rains, the spores are activated, but the wet soil keep them under control.

Then, if the rain is followed by a drought, long filaments of the spores break off and become airborne. The spores, known as arthroconidia, are swept into the air by human, animal, and meteorological activity, where they can then be inhaled by human beings and other animals. However, for most people there are no symptoms, and that is why many physicians hardly ever consider the possibility that the disease is present in a patient. If you’ve lived in the valley for a long time, the chances are that you’ve been exposed to the fungus or have actually contracted the disease without ever knowing it. And, there are no reasons to worry about it...


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