Valley Fever: The Mysterious Illness Affecting Farm Workers | NBC NewsOn October 10, 2019 by Raul Dinwiddie
Many have heard of valley fever but they don’t know the details, they don’t know it’s increasing. They don’t know how bad it can become. Imelda is not alone. A potentially deadly virus known as valley fever is hitting california farm workers hard in the central valley. I see at least three to four patients with valley fever every single week.
Imelda is not alone. A potentially deadly virus known as valley fever is hitting california farm workers hard in the central valley. Imelda is not alone. A potentially deadly virus known as valley fever is hitting california farm workers hard in the central valley. Valley fever is very common disease in the area. The fungus is known as coccidioidomycosis, and it grows in the soil typically found in dry areas such as in the Southwestern United States, parts of Mexico and Central and South America. Valley Fever often goes undiagnosed, since its symptoms tend to present as the flu. They can be as mild as muscle aches or as severe as widespread infections that affect the lungs and kidneys. In 2012 is when I was notified that my kidneys had failed and I needed to start dialysis. Come on, you’ll come in in a little bit, let me just connect. You have to load the set and this is going to be connected to the toliet. This is the most important part. Do it fast. This takes me about 15 minutes. We have to prep the machine. Look, you’ll start seeing the liquid. So I just get ready for bed or watch T.V. And stay here until 10 hours later when the machine is ready for me to disconnect. In 2017 there were 14,364 reported cases of Valley Fever. The CDC believe that could be as many as 150,000 more undiagnosed cases per year. On average there were approximately 200 deaths associated with the illness each year in the U.S. from 1999 to 2016. When I tell a patient that I’m suspecting Vally Fever they say oh no. So they heard somebody or they know already somebody, or a relative, a friend, a coworker, that has or has had Valley Fever and they afraid to get it. In many cases the fungus continues to live in the body. It may remain dormant and could come back at any point. According to the CDC, Valley Fever can affect anyone but pregnant women, people with diabetes, HIV and the elderly are all at higher risk. The best defense is to stay healthy. One of the things as a farmworker, there’s so many factors, so even if you eat healthy everyday you’re going into a field that was probably does to its so much pesticide and you’re breathing that in.
One of the things as a farmworker, there’s so many factors, so even if you eat healthy everyday you’re going into a field that was probably does to its so much pesticide and you’re breathing that in. if you live in an unincorporated community. Where the water is not clean to drink, but you’re still showering in it. You’ll still be exposed to that water. We live in food silo, food desserts, right? So how are you gonna eat healthy? It’s really difficult, I think, to say that you’re gonna stay so healthy because your environment doesn’t provide that for you. Isabel was diagnosed with Valley fever twice. The first time in 2007. And again in 2008 where it was far more severe. So we met on a dating site. Our fourth date was in the hospital. Doctors told my family that she has two weeks to live and we are going to just send her home and stop her medication, all we can do is relieve her pain. The two weeks ended on a Friday and I remember telling my mom, you know I still feel like today isn’t my last day and I got better and here I am. He died his hair. I was very lucky that after the second time, I survived. Isabel, the daughter of a farm worker directs a small nonprofit, El Quinto Sol de America, which advocates for farm workers and others, living in unincorporated communities. Working with farm workers that have Vally Fever, I can really relate. Their main goal is to provide for their family. To ensure that their children have a good future. Sometimes I’ll be talking to a farm worker they tell me,” Oh you know, I’m having these symptoms.” And my first thing is,” Have you been tested for Valley fever? You should go get tested for valley fever.”
Sometimes I’ll be talking to a farm worker they tell me,” Oh you know, I’m having these symptoms.” Sometimes I’ll be talking to a farm worker they tell me,” Oh you know, I’m having these symptoms.” People should care about valley fever because the pathogen might expand it’s territory because of climate change and because of ongoing construction in areas where the pathogen is established. These are new orchards that I think should not have been allowed to be planted there. Pesticides have removed all the underlying vegetation, so it’s bare soil, and you can see that this is a dust hazard. In the soil, are typical soils for sites where we had found the Valley Fever fungus in other areas close to here. I will analyze it in the laboratory at CSUB to see if the Valley Fever fungus is growing in the soil. This dust hazard is not just a hazard for people here. The wind can pick it up, bring it to other areas. Everybody who has a lung is potentially at risk. Dr. Antje Lauer stresses that with climate change the threat of valley fever is only going to expand in the coming years. And understanding the risks and effects is essential for informing a vulnerable population.