Valley Fever is an infection caused by breathing in microscopic spores from the Coccidioides fungus that lives in soil in certain geographic areas. The symptoms can be similar to those of other common illnesses like the flu. Southwestern states are seeing a sustained rise in cases of Valley Fever.
In October 2019, California’s governor approved Assembly Bill 2013, helping protect workers at risk of Valley Fever, stating, “This bill would require construction employers engaging in specific work activities or vehicle operations in counties where Valley Fever is highly endemic, as defined, to provide effective awareness training Valley Fever to all employees annually and before an employee begins work that is reasonably anticipated to cause substantial dust disturbance.”
ClickSafety’s Valley Fever training, entitled Valley Fever Awareness for All Industries is designed to for all employers and employees in all industries to identify risks, learn the symptoms, and help mitigate potential risk of exposure in the workplace.
The Importance of Valley Fever Training
The CDC defines Valley Fever as a devastating fungal lung infection caused by a fungus that lives within the soil. Each year, about 10,000 cases are reported in the United States with most cases originating in Arizona and California. Unfortunately, Valley Fever is often misdiagnosed because the symptoms can appear similar to those of other illnesses.
Caused by a fungus called coccidioides is found in the southwestern United States, as well as parts of both Central America and South America. It has been known to stretch as far as south-central Washington state, as well. Though Valley Fever does not spread from person to person, it is contracted by breathing in inconspicuous microscopic fungus in these areas, creating an invisible workplace hazard for all industries.
Common Symptoms of Valley Fever
Many people exposed to Valley Fever never exhibit any symptoms. Those who do, often exhibit flu-like symptoms, including fatigue, general malaise, fever, shortness of breath, headaches, night sweats, muscle and joint pains, and rashes across the upper body or legs. Because the symptoms of Valley Fever mimic those of other illnesses, this often leads to delays in diagnoses.
For many, symptoms will dissipate after a few weeks without treatment, however, in severe cases, individuals may need antifungal medications and our hospital-prescribed antifungal treatments for ongoing lung infections. Anyone who lives in or travels to an area where the fungus lives can contract Valley Fever, however certain groups are at a higher risk for developing severe cases of the disease. These individuals may include:
- Those with weakened immune systems due to organ transplants, taking medications such as corticosteroids or TNF inhibitors, or HIV/AIDS
- Pregnant women
- Those with diabetes
- African Americans or Filipinos
Valley Fever Awareness Training is Essential
It is extremely difficult for individuals to avoid Valley Fever in regions in which it is prevalent because it is a microscopic element within the environment. Furthermore, there is no vaccine to prevent potential infection. Because of this, Valley Fever training and awareness is essential for all industries to avoid potential delays in both diagnoses and treatments.
If individuals present with Valley Fever symptoms and have recently visited an area in which Valley Fever is common, they should ask to be tested for Valley Fever. Health providers should be fully aware that Valley Fever symptoms may mimic those of other similar respiratory illnesses and should consider testing if exposure to the coccidioides fungus is presumed.
The CDC, state, and local health departments continue to join forces to educate the public and healthcare industry about Valley Fever, its symptoms, and the need for timely diagnoses. To further this objective, ClickSafety’s Valley Fever Awareness for All Industries online training provides participants with a greater familiarity with Valley Fever, safety risks, regulatory requirements, and mitigation measures available for the workforce.
Helpful Valley Fever Information for California Residents & Businesses
While the CDC continues to raise awareness for and surveillance of Valley Fever in the disease’s hotspots, specific information is available for residents and businesses within California. The following Valley Fever-specific links are specifically helpful for those within California:
- California Department of Public Health – Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis)
- LA County Department of Public Health – Valley Fever
- LA County Department of Public Health – Valley Fever Youth Flyer
Because Valley Fever is a prevalent but often misdiagnosed and misunderstood illness affecting the southwestern United States and can impact all industries, our goal at ClickSafety is to raise awareness through essential Valley Fever training.