Valley Fever Prevention

Valley Fever is an infection caused by inhalation of spores of the fungus Coccidioides immitis (CI).  The fungus  is found naturally in the soil in many parts of Kern County and the southern San Joaquin Valley.  When soil containing the fungus is disturbed, the dust produced may contain the spores, and may be inhaled into a person’s lungs and the person may become infected.  All people who reside, visit or travel through the regions in which Valley Fever is found are at risk of becoming infected.

Specific occupations and outdoor activities increase the risk of exposure and infection.  Occupations and outdoor activities associated with dust generation such as construction, farming, road work, military training, gardening, hiking, camping, bicycling, fossil collecting increases the exposure risk.  The risk appears to be more specifically associated with the amount of time spent outdoors than with doing specific activities.

The goal of this section is to provide individuals with recommendations on how to lower/reduce your chances of getting Valley Fever.  Although these recommendations may not prevent all infections, they can reduce the number of spores inhaled and lower the changes of developing a more serious form of the disease.  Until a vaccine is available, complete prevention of this disease is not possible.  Finally, it is important to note that these recommendations are general and often prevention recommendations need to be provided on a case-by-case basis for Valley Fever.  Contact the Kern County Public Health Services Department to discuss what may or may not be appropriate for your circumstance.

General Prevention Measures

1)     Avoid being outdoors during windy conditions.

2)     Avoid activities in which large amount of dust are generated.

3)     Minimize exposed soil by using hard ground cover or planting ground cover vegetation.

4)     Keep disturbed soil wet especially when working directly with the soil.

5)     Whenever possible provide filtered and conditioned air to living and work spaces.

6)     Seek prompt medical advice if flu or respiratory illness symptoms occur within a few weeks following exposure to CI endemic areas.

Occupational Prevention Measures

1)     Practice general prevention measures.

2)     Determine if the work site is in a high risk Valley Fever area (contact the Kern County Public Health Services Department)

3)     Obtain a health assessment prior to being exposed to Valley Fever

4)     Use non-susceptible workers

5)     Use machinery and vehicles with enclosed cabs and use air conditioning

6)     Use dust masks appropriate for the activity performed

7)     Remove dusty clothing and store in plastic bags until washed

Recreational Prevention Measures

1)     Practice general prevention measures.

2)     Avoid camping in sites with loose or sandy soil, if possible camp on vegetated areas.

3)     Camp and sleep upwind of known or suspected Valley Fever growth sites or dusty areas.

4)     Avoid hiking, biking, and off road driving in known or suspected Valley Fever growth sites or dusty areas.

5)     Don’t dig in or collect materials in known or suspected Valley Fever growth sites or dusty areas.

Clues that Valley Fever May Be in the Soil

1)     Lots of animal burrows

2)     Old (prehistoric) Indian Campsites

3)     Areas with sparse vegetation

4)     Areas adjacent to arroyos

5)     Packrat middens

6)     Upper 12 inches of undisturbed soil

7)     Sandy well aerated soil with high water holding capacity.

Areas Where Valley Fever is Not Likely to Be Found

1)     Cultivated fields

2)     Heavily vegetated areas

3)     Higher elevations (above about 7,000 feet)

4)     Areas where commercial fertilizers have been applied

5)     Paved or oiled areas

6)     Heavily urbanized areas where there is relatively little undisturbed soil