Global Warming Connected to Rise in Valley Fever Cases

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Warmer, drier conditions have resulted in an increase in the cases of ‘Valley Fever’.  It is spread by fungus-laced spores in dry, dusty climates, and is moved by the wind. Why are conditions warmer and drier? Quite possibly, global warming, that conspicuous elephant that’s been in the room for more than two decades now is connected to the recent rise in Valley Fever Cases.

The disease is often lethal, and frequently misdiagnosed.  The fungus is aligned with environmental conditions, and in the driest, wind prone areas, grows more rapidly.

“Research has shown that when soil is dry and it is windy, more spores are likely to become airborne in endemic areas,” said Dr. Gil Chavez, Deputy Director of the Center for Infectious Diseases at the California Department of Public Health. For some reason, these conditions have increased. Unfortunately, global warming has been ignored as the condition’s primary cause.

Central California’s agricultural region has been one of the areas of concern over the last few years.  Records show that in 2010, and 2011, there was a dramatic rise in the number of cases. Researchers also noticed pathological changes in the weather over the same period of time.

Nationwide, the number of valley fever cases rose by more than 850 percent from 1998 through 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In 2011, there were more than 20,400, with most cases reported in California and Arizona. Much of this could have been predicted as a result of climate change in these regions.

Although the fever is especially prevalent in Central California, health officials are quick to point out that those most likely to be affected work in the agricultural fields, or in construction.

Valley Fever has flu-like symptoms, but they usually do not show up until one to three weeks after infection.  They include Fever, Cough, Chest pain, varying from a mild feeling of constriction to intense pressure resembling a heart attack, Chills, Night sweats, Headache, Fatigue, Joint aches, and a Red, spotty rash.

When a victim is infected, recovery can take months.  Fatigue and joint pain can last even longer.

In those with a weaker immune system, such as the elderly, and those suffering from chronic disease, it can result in pneumonia, and sometimes death.

Prevention of Valley Fever is simply taking precautions as advised by the Mayo Clinic:

If you live in or visit areas where valley fever is common, take common-sense precautions, especially during the summer months when the chance of infection is highest. Consider wearing a mask, staying inside during dust storms, wetting the soil before digging, and keeping doors and windows tightly closed. The probability that global warming is connected to the rise in Valley Fever cases, people in high risk areas should take the necessary preventative measures.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

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