Guest commentary — Valley Fever in SLO County: What You Need to Know

October 4, 2017
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The fungus that causes Valley Fever is here in SLO County soil. You can take action to say healthy

By the the County of San Luis Obispo Department of Public Health

Courtesy photo

Spending time outdoors in dusty areas may increase your exposure to the fungus that causes Valley Fever. You can take steps to protect yourself and stay healthy. Valley Fever (orcoccidioidomycosis) is an illness caused by breathing in a fungus that lives in the soil here in San Luis Obispo County and across the Southwest. When the soil is disturbed—by wind, digging, even mountain biking—you can breathe in the spores from this fungus and develop Valley Fever.

Most people who become infected with Valley Fever do not experience any symptoms and do not need any treatment—their body fights off the infection. Some people develop flu-like symptoms such as severe fatigue, cough, fever, and sometimes a rash. Most of these people get well on their own within weeks. A small percentage of people experiences a much more serious form of the disease and may need to take medication for the rest of their lives.

The best way to reduce your risk of Valley Fever is to avoid breathing dirt and dust in the air.  Try to avoid areas with a lot of dust, especially on windy days. During dust storms, stay inside and close your windows. If you drive on a dusty road, close your car windows and set the A/C to recirculate. If you need to spend time in a dusty area, take precautions such as dampening the soil so it doesn’t drift into the air or wearing a NIOSH-approved respirator.

If you develop severe flu-like symptoms that last more than a few weeks, tell your doctor and ask to be tested for Valley Fever along with other possible causes.

You can learn more from the Public Health Department Valley Fever page. Other trusted resources include:

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