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Valley Fever cases increase in California

SACRAMENTO – California public health officials  on Thursday announced a large hike in the number of reported Valley Fever cases in the state, with illness onset in 2016 — but they don’t know what’s behind the increase.
From January through December 2016, 5,372 new cases of Valley Fever were reported to California Department of Public Health corresponding to an incidence rate of 13.7 cases per 100,000 people.
Officials said that’s very similar to the most recent peak in 2011, when 5,213 cases were reported — the highest number since 1995, when the state mandated that individual cases be reported.
“People who live in or travel to areas where Valley Fever is common should take steps to avoid breathing in dusty air,” State Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith said in a statement. “If they develop flu-like symptoms, such as cough, fever, or difficulty breathing, lasting two weeks or more, they should ask their doctor about Valley Fever.”
Valley Fever, which is most common in counties in the Central Coast and Southern Central Valley regions, is caused by the spore of a fungus that grows in certain types of soil. People become infected by breathing in spores present in dust that get into the air when it’s windy or when soil is disturbed, such as through digging in dirt during construction.
Anyone can get Valley Fever, but those most at-risk for severe disease include people 60 years or older, African-Americans, Filipinos, pregnant women, and people with diabetes or conditions that weaken their immune system. People who live, work, or travel in Valley Fever areas are also at a higher risk of getting infected, especially if they work outdoors or participate in activities where soil is disturbed.
Residents can reduce the risk of illness by avoiding breathing in dirt or dust in areas where Valley Fever is common. If it’s windy there, stay inside and keep windows and doors closed. While driving, keep you car windows closed and use recirculating air conditioning, if available. If you must be outdoors, consider wearing a properly fitted mask, such as an N95 respirator mask, available in retail stores.
Most infected people will not show signs of illness, but those who do become ill with Valley Fever may have flu-like symptoms that can last for two weeks or more. While most people recover fully, some may develop more severe complications, including pneumonia, or infection of the brain, joints, bone, skin or other organs.
For more, visit the  CDPH website.

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