To this day, my dad still tests positive on every TB test, because as a child, he suffered what’s called Valley fever. For most, it’s a remnant of the past that we’ve never actually heard of. The only reason why I’ve known about it my whole life is because my dad had it, and his mother was told to take him home and hope for the best. They didn’t really have a treatment, and it’s spreading through the American Southwest again.
Also known as coccidioidomycosis, this particular infection is found in California soil and the California central valley. You can experience symptoms ranging from fatigue to a devastating, flesh-eating infection, and no vaccine currently exists. Even now, all you have to do is take a breath where there is currently spores, and there is no mask that can filter them out and therefore protect you from it.
Cases have popped up in 1998, there were 2000 cases. There were over 22,000 cases in 2011, why the increase? More importantly, why have we not been able to find anything that would prevent or fight this? We have no public health program that has targeted this particular problem.
At this point, most people who have been exposed to valley fever don’t know it. Once introduced, the infection never actually leaves the body, but 60% causes no visible symptoms at all. There is still no guarantees of immunity, and even if you never get sick, you will test positive for the rest of your life if you contract valley fever. If you suffer other diseases or other sources of stress like cancer or organ transplants, this could easily cause a flare up as well.
About 40% of the infections look like the flu. Painful boils associated with this infection can clear up with a few months of treatment, but a small number (like that of my dad) can actually become life threatening. We have no way to fully understand as of yet why this particular infection affects some more than others. In those extreme cases, valley fever can lead to meningitis, and sometimes even death.