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Valley fever has left the valley

Mel Rising Dawn Cordeiro

Managing Editor

Photo via Karolina Grabowska/Pexels

Some things, like the “All Valley Under 18 Karate Tournament” from “The Karate Kid” can be confined within a valley. Valley fever, otherwise known as coccidioidomycosis, or “cocci” for short, has recently proven that it cannot be.

Doctors are warning people across the country, but specifically in California and Arizona, about the rapid spread of this infectious illness. The primary make up of Valley fever is a fungus called Coccidioides. It lives in the soil and can be inhaled when exposed to dusty situations, such as a dust storm, a construction site or even an excavation site. Valley fever is a significant cause of pneumonia as well. Pneumonias are usually bacterial infections, which is one thing that sets Valley fever apart from traditional pneumonias.

As luck would have it, valley fever and COVID-19 share a lot of the same symptoms, including, but not limited to: Fever, cough, difficulty breathing and fatigue. Unlike COVID, however, Valley fever has the potential to spread to other body parts and cause other diseases, though this is rare in occurrence. There are roughly 200 deaths per year that can be attributed to Valley fever.

Not everyone who breathes in the fungal spores will contract Valley fever, and those who do typically get better on their own after a few weeks. In rare cases, antifungal medicine will need to be administered. If Valley fever spreads, it will cause meningitis, which can be fatal. It would appear that those who have been treated have made a full recovery, with the only side effects being minimal nerve damage for severe cases.

Humans are not the only ones who can contract Valley fever either. Animals, including household pets, can also get sick. Any animal or person who has the opportunity to inhale the fungal spores through dirt and dust is susceptible to infection. The good news, however, is that it cannot spread from human to human, animal to animal, or human to animal. As is expected, Valley fever has the potential to be quite devastating for people who are immunocompromised.

The best way to avoid contracting Valley fever is to simply avoid dusty and dry situations, especially in the summer and peak heat situations. Risk is also associated with travel to high-risk areas, such as California and Arizona, where conditions are notorious for being dry.

Here in New England, we are not at an immediate risk for contracting Valley fever, as we are not as dry as the conditions required for the fungus to survive. Due to the decrease in COVID restrictions and the increase in travel, we are at risk of contracting Valley fever simply due to the fact that we are moving around the country again.

Just as with any other illness, or suspicion of illness, contact your doctor. If you are on campus and become ill, stop by Health Services or give them a call at 401-456-8055.


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