A potentially fatal fungus is rapidly spreading throughout the nation at an alarming rate
By: April Carson
Medical professionals are cautioning of a quickly advancing fungal disease that is especially prevalent in California and Arizona, making its way across the nation with alarming speed.
If the concept of a parasitical fungal infection devastating mankind seems like something from "The Last of Us" series, it's not too far off - there are some striking likenesses.
According to Dr. Brad Perkins, chief medical officer at Karius - a company that provides advanced diagnostics for infectious diseases - Valley fever (or coccidioidomycosis) is an important factor in pneumonia cases.
"Valley fever is a systemic fungal infection caused by Coccidioides immitis and Coccidioides posadasii," said Perkins. "It occurs when these fungi become airborne and are inhaled into the lungs, where they establish an invasive infection."
Perkins, a former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention official who spearheaded the anthrax bioterrorism investigation, declared that "This is a fungus." Unlike most cases of pneumonia which are bacterial, this particular organism thrives in dusty environments such as storms or construction sites.
The signs and symptoms of Valley fever
Valley fever and COVID-19 can both manifest in a multitude of the same symptoms, such as coughing, difficulty breathing, fatigue, and fever. In rare situations, it can also spread to other body parts which may result in significant illness.
Valley fever is a deadly disease, causing over 200 fatalities annually. Breathing in the spores of fungi present in dirt and outdoor dust can lead to this affliction for both animals and pets alike-- although it cannot be passed from one person or animal to another.
Our best defense against this potentially fatal fungus is to be aware of the signs and symptoms and protect ourselves from being exposed to it. The CDC recommends individuals take precautionary measures when outdoors, such as wearing long-sleeved clothing and dust masks to avoid breathing in the spores.
Perkins comments that people with compromised immune systems are most commonly affected by the infection, making it a potentially destructive diagnosis. Fortunately, this event is relatively uncommon. Prevention can prove difficult as risk is usually associated with visiting high-risk locations or areas.
To lower the risk of Valley fever, Perkins recommends avoiding dusty environments primarily in the summer and during extreme temperatures. He also suggests wearing a face-covering when working with soil or visiting potentially affected areas.
It is important to remember that the fungus can be spread through bird droppings, wind, and contact with objects or people in the affected area. In some cases, patients have become infected by inhaling the fungal spores.
The Primary Locations of Valley fever
According to the CDC, Coccidioides immitis and Coccidioides posadasiii - two species of fungi - are responsible for causing Valley fever.
In the U.S., C. immitis has been discovered primarily in California and Washington State, while its counterpart, C. posadasii, is mainly seen in Arizona as well as New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Texas regions of southern California.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has uncovered that Valley Fever is most common in the Southern California area, specifically the southern San Joaquin Valley. Additionally, Arizona's main metropolitan areas of Phoenix and Tucson have reported high cases as well. It is believed that West Texas places and sites near the Rio Grande River may also be affected by this disease at a higher rate than other regions.
California's health officials declare that the number of Valley fever cases has soared in recent years, with a threefold increase from 2014 to 2018. The Central Valley and Central Coast regions account for an extensive 65% majority of California Valley fever reports per the State Department of Health.
Football fans attending the upcoming Super Bowl to watch the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles battle it out at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona should heed Perkins' sage advice.
According to Perkins, if your travels are only limited to the airport, hotel, and Super Bowl event you will be safe; however, those who plan on trekking through a desert should exercise caution to avoid contracting Valley fever.
Last year, Valley fever shook the state of Arizona with an astounding 11,523 reported cases. Of those reports, 94% were concentrated in the three counties housing Phoenix and Tucson: Maricopa County, Pima County, and Pinal County.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that Valley fever is a potentially fatal fungus that has rapidly spread throughout the nation at an alarming rate. While this fungus typically resides in desert soils, it can be transported via wind and infect people who inhale its spores.
Why is Valley fever on the rise?
Perkins stated that the growing number of COVID-19 cases is overwhelmingly connected to people relocating to states like Arizona and California, as well as those traveling there for leisure purposes.
Moreover, a considerable portion of those cases can be attributed to elderly individuals who have never been exposed to Valley fever before and are more susceptible due to weakened immune systems.
Evidence shows that the climate crisis is escalating and contributing to the growth of fungi in soil. As temperatures rise, fungal reproduction has increased significantly in these areas.
Dr. Perkins stated that the western United States has some degree of Valley fever exposure, though it is much more common in Arizona's Phoenix area and certain sectors of central California. It is crucial to take note of this information.
According to the journal GeoHealth, by century's end, Valley fever could potentially span as far north as Canada. People need to remain vigilant and take the necessary steps to protect themselves against this potentially fatal fungus. Wearing long sleeves, and protective masks, and avoiding direct contact with soil can help reduce exposure. Furthermore, it is essential to seek medical attention if any of the common symptoms are present including fever, fatigue, a cough, skin rash, or joint pain.
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April Carson is the daughter of Billy Carson. She received her bachelor's degree in Social Sciences from Jacksonville University, where she was also on the Women's Basketball team. She now has a successful clothing company that specializes in organic baby clothes and other items. Take a look at their most popular fall fashions on bossbabymav.com
To read more of April's blogs, check out her website! She publishes new blogs on a daily basis, including the most helpful mommy advice and baby care tips! Follow on IG @bossbabymav
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