County health officials have concluded that the Thomas Fire and subsequent debris flow were not tied to the number of valley fever cases reported during that time. County officials stated valley fever cases have been increasing markedly since January 2016, but that’s been true, they said, throughout the state. The peak, they said, took place in October and November 2017; the Thomas Fire broke out in December. Of the 56 valley fever cases reported during the fire and flood events, none were firefighters and only one was a first responder. Of the 56 cases, 47 involved North County residents and only four lived in southern Santa Barbara County. Valley fever typically mimics flu symptoms and is caused when individuals breathe in the dust of soil laden with certain fungal spores.
Correction: This story was corrected on May 11: Valley fever is caused by fungal spores, not bacterial ones.