Santa Barbara County had 104 cases of Valley Fever in 2017, a 67 percent increase from 2016’s 62 cases. Santa Barbara isn’t alone. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced today that 2017 had the highest number of new Valley Fever cases on record in California since Valley Fever became individually reportable in 1955. This is the second consecutive year new Valley Fever cases have broken records. The CDPH reported 7,466 new cases in 2017 — 2,748 of which were from Kern County.
The highest number of cases statewide for both record-breaking years have been in the Central Valley and Central Coast regions, including Kern, Kings, San Luis Obispo, Fresno, Tulare, Madera, and Monterey counties. “People living and working in the Central Valley and Central Coast regions should take steps to avoid breathing in dusty air,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith. “If individuals develop flu-like symptoms lasting two weeks or more, they should ask their health care provider about Valley Fever.”
Valley Fever is a fungal infection caused by breathing in spores of a fungus that grows in certain types of soil. The fungal spores can be stirred into the air by digging, construction, or wind. It is unclear why there has been a spike in reported cases in California since 2014. Possible contributing factors may be heavy rainfall after years of drought and increased awareness and testing. To reduce the risk, stay indoors when the air is dusty and wet down soil before digging to reduce dust.