Quake Dust Blamed for Outbreak of Flu-Like Valley Fever
SIMI VALLEY, Calif. (AP) _ Dust clouds kicked up by last month’s earthquake and aftershocks scattered spores of a soil-borne fungus that has caused an outbreak of flu-like Valley Fever.
″There’s no question we’re having an outbreak. I’ve had five cases confirmed within a week. I’ve never had that many at one time,″ said Dr. Gurdip Flora, a pulmonary specialist.
Thirty-five cases were confirmed last week alone in an area from eastern Ventura County to the western San Fernando Valley, epicenter of the Jan. 17 magnitude-6.7 earthquake.
Urban areas rarely see many cases over such a short period, said Dr. Demosthenes Pappagianis, a Valley Fever specialist at the University of California, Davis, Medical Center.
At least 15 Ventura County residents with Valley Fever symptoms were hospitalized at Simi Valley Hospital and Los Robles Regional Medical Center.
The disease is caused by the fungus coccidioidomycosis, found in the soil in many areas of the Southwest.
Symptoms include fever, persistent cough and sometimes a raised, red rash. If the fever infects the brain, it can cause meningitis. It is rarely fatal - less than 1 percent of those who get it die.
California reported 4,125 cases last year. About 65 percent of those infected never develop symptoms, said Dr. Abigail Shefer, a state Department of Health Services epidemiologist.