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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Valley Fever

Every region of the world, it seems, has its particular problems with airborne pollens, molds and other particulates that affect the breathing and health of the residents.

In the desert southwest of the United States, an affliction known as Valley Fever follows a pattern known as Grow and Blow. A type of fungus known as Coccidioidomycosis produces a disease wrought by inhalation of airborne spores when the fungus grows during wet spells and then dries out during dry spells. Even such as wind storms, construction, till farming or even an earthquake can cause massive releases of the fungal spores and that’s when Valley Fever outbreaks occur.

Even people who aren’t normally sensitive to allergens or asthma-related symptoms can become ill from Valley Fever.  But in many cases those who do suffer from breathing-related illnesses are at greatest risk. Deaths have occurred as the disease produces flu-like symptoms, some of which can be intense. It can lung failure and even spread to the brain and other parts of the body.

Only recently has the disease become better-known by the general public. For many years isolated populations including prison inmates or agricultural workers came down with the disease, but an 850% increase in incidents in recent years has heightened awareness and public health cautions.

That is particularly important as people migrating to or visiting the desert Southwest can contract the disease if conditions are right. And, those conditions seem to be on the increase due to more intense fluctuations in weather thanks to climate change, which is resulting in heavier rains followed by more intense periods of drought. In other words, climate change may be creating the Perfect Storm for spread of Valley Fever.

Valley Fever still may not be properly diagnosed, since fungal diseases are not always easily detected. Still, the fact that someone is coughing so hard they black out, or spitting blood from trauma to the lung and bronchial passages is a clear sign that something’s truly wrong.

The state of California is now seeking to educate its public health officials.  Public warnings to limit outdoor activities on high-risk days are also being implemented.

Such activities are crucial because Valley Fever can be devastating and persistent, causing people to undergo expensive treatments if they are diagnosed at all.

Taking precautions on high-risk days may become the norm for residents of the Southwest. These might include allergy masks or air purifiers, both of which can remove mold and fungal spores from the air. These often affordable preventative measures include transportable devices like travel air purifiers for residents and visitors to the desert Southwest.

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