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What is Valley Fever? A look into its local impact after storms

A fungal infection called Valley Fever could be of concern here in the Coachella Valley, especially after recent rainy days.

"Sometimes after a rains, you will see an increase in Valley Fever infections, primarily in patients who are outside doing things in the dust or the desert," said Dr. Vincent Devlin, who is an Allergist Immunologist with Eisenhower Medical Center.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Valley fever, also called coccidioidomycosis, is an infection caused by the fungus Coccidioides.

With dust and sand kicked up into the air after recent storms, comes the risk of Valley Fever.

“If there's a dust storm, or if the air quality is very poor with dust, certainly the fungal spores can be kicked up when there's a dust storm," said Dr. Devlin.

People can get Valley fever by breathing in the microscopic fungal spores from the air, although most people who breathe in the spores don’t get sick. Usually, people who get sick with Valley fever will get better on their own within weeks to months, but some people will need antifungal medication.

Symptoms can vary from person to person. For some, it can be much more serious.

“Symptoms very much like a flu or pneumonia. So fever, difficulty breathing, fatigue, weight loss, you definitely want to be on high alert," said Dr. Devlin.

It was one of those severe cases for Rancho Mirage resident, Biff Whitten.

He contracted Valley Fever twice in 2018 while overseas.

“Nauseous, dizzy, no equilibrium, hard to concentrate. And that lasted about a week. But the dizziness and the the and the queasiness and all that lasted probably about five weeks, six weeks, something like that," Whitten told News Channel 3.

Whitten was treated with antibiotics at the time. He wants others to know just how severe Valley Fever could be.

“If you look at the last three nights, and all the flooding in the sand, the top layer is being blown off because it dries out and so little tiny particles... That's what you're breathing in. And when it's on top, it's the worst because that's where all the stuffing the bad stuff," Whitten said.

If you work outside, Dr. Devlin says you can wear a mask to minimize the amount of dust you are breathing in.

If you do feel you have been exposed to Valley Fever, you can also get a blood test at the Eisenhower clinic. Click here to learn more about treatments.

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Samantha Lomibao

Samantha joined KESQ News Channel 3 in May 2021. Learn more about Samantha here here.


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