Wind-blown dust and dirt thrown up by construction-type activity are causing more cases of valley fever in Santa Barbara County, the state Public Health department announced. From 21 cases in 2014 to 53 cases in 2016, reported Santa Barbara County Public Health’s Susan Klein-Rothschild, 2017 looks to continue the run of increases as the year through September already has 39 cases. The reason for the increase in cases, which is occurring statewide, is unknown.
Valley fever, or coccidioidomycosis, presents with flu-like symptoms of cough, fever, and difficulty breathing lasting for two weeks or more. The airborne dirt contains spores of a fungus that when inhaled can cause illness. Most people show no sign of being sick or recover fully, but those 60 years or older, pregnant, or with chronic illnesses that weaken the immune system can be more seriously affected. For unknown reasons, reports the state agency, people of African-American or Filipino heritage are at increased risk for serious complications like pneumonia or infection. A fitted mask, like an N95 respirator mask, can help in dusty, windy conditions.