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Valley fever cases reach epidemic levels, but harm remains hidden

Valley fever starts with the simple act of breathing. In about 100 cases every year nationally the fever kills. That’s more deaths than those caused by hantavirus, whooping cough, and salmonella poisoning combined, yet all of these conditions receive far more attention from public health officials.

When valley fever struck celebrated winemaker, doctors missed it

Boutique winery owner, Todd Schaefer, was diagnosed with pneumonia twice before doctors were able to see that he was infected with Valley Fever. As his condition worsens, the disease puts a strain on his health, and his business.

Valley fever basics

What are the symptoms? Fever, a persistent cough that won’t go away, night sweats, weight loss, and different kinds of rashes. Once a person is infected with the fungus, it does not leave the body.

Changing Climate May Expand Valley Fever’s Impact

Valley fever feeds on heat. And as the average temperature ticks up with each passing decade, experts are concerned that the fungus’ footprint and impact are expanding, as evidenced by a rise in cases in areas far outside the hot spots of the Central Valley of California.

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About This Series

This project results from an innovative reporting venture – the Center for Health Journalism Collaborative – which currently involves the Bakersfield Californian, Radio Bilingüe in Fresno, Valley Public Radio in Fresno and Bakersfield, Vida en el Valle in Fresno, Hanford Sentinel, the Voice of OC in Santa Ana, the Arizona Daily Star in Tucson, La Estrella de Tucsón and the Center for Health Journalism. The collaborative is an initiative of the Center for Health Journalism at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.