Data shows Valley Fever cases in Kern increase for the fourth year in a row

April 30, 2019 /

The number of Valley Fever cases in Kern County has increased for the fourth year in a row, according to the Kern County Public Health Department.

The health department released Valley Fever data from 2018 at a press conference last week. The data shows a seven percent increase from 2017.

“Although this is only a seven percent increase from the previous calendar year, this represents the fourth year in a row of increasing cases in Kern County,” said Matt Constantine, the director for the public health department.

In Kern County alone in 2018, there were 2,937 reported cases of Valley Fever — a fungal infection caused by coccidioides organisms that become airborne when soil is disturbed. However, experts say the actual number of infections is considerably higher than reported cases.

According to the Valley Fever Institute, many people exposed to the fungus never have symptoms, while others may have flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, tiredness, headaches, and rash. Severe infections from the fungus can infect the brain and other organs. Valley fever can’t be spread from one person to another or from animals to people. Some tips to lower the risk for valley fever are staying indoors during dust storms, using face masks if being outside is needed, and wetting down dusty areas before working or playing in them to avoid kicking up the dust.

“Unfortunately this is the highest number of new cases to impact Kern County in 27 years since 1992,” Constantine said.

The data shows those most affected by Valley Fever in Kern are African Americans, according to Epidemiology Manager Kim Hernandez. Rates are also higher among men and individuals between the ages of 45 and 65.

The number of Valley Fever diagnosis is higher in Kern County than any other county, Hernandez said.

“While the final statewide numbers for 2018 haven’t been published yet, Kern County residents regularly account for 30 to 50 percent of all the cases in California,” Hernandez said. “This means that our community bears the largest burden of Valley Fever in California.”

Royce H. Johnson, the medical director for the Valley Fever Institute, said the number of patients in need of care continues to increase.

“(Valley Fever) patients tend to not go away,” Johnson said. “The number of people needing care from this disease is not an annual event. It’s an ongoing process that adds up over time.”

Bryana Lozoya

Bryana Lozoya is a youth reporter for South Kern Sol. Lozoya is student at Bakersfield College and writes for The Renegade Rip.