30Aug 2017

A Fungus in the Fields—Valley Fever Cases On the Rise in Parts of California

Health officials urge employers to address Valley Fever in your IIPP.

As dust kicks up into the air, nearby workers are potentially exposed to Valley Fever if the fungus is present.

Back in the 1950s, Terry Noland released the song “There Was a Fungus Among Us.” You have to pronounce the “g” in “among” to get the true effect of this title.

In many parts of California, it would be more accurate to say, “There IS a fungus among us.” It’s a fungus that’s making people sick, and forcing them to miss work.

The fungus is called coccidioides immitis. It causes Valley Fever, a serious and What is Valley Fever?potentially fatal respiratory disease that’s on the rise in our state. Those living and working in the Central Valley and Southern regions are most affected.

The fungus lives in the top two-to-12 inches of soil. People breathe it in when dirt releases into the air during soil-disturbing activities. This means farmers, construction workers, and others who dig up dirt for a living are among those most at risk of getting Valley Fever at work.

Despite how serious and widespread Valley Fever is, very few employers cover it in their Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).

What to include in my IIPP?

Valley Fever is a tricky disease. Symptoms can mimic the flu and other common illnesses, and therefore the disease isn’t often diagnosed right away.

To protect your employees, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has several recommendations on what to include in your IIPP, including

  • Information about Valley Fever endemic areas.
  • How workers may be exposed to the fungus.
  • Control measures to help reduce exposures such as wetting the soil before digging.
  • What types of respirators to use and when.
  • When to report symptoms.

No vaccine exists to prevent Valley Fever. Fortunately, we have some steps we can take to minimize exposures, reduce illness, and keep people working.

Yes, there is a fungus among us, but it doesn’t have to hurt us.

For more information please visit CDPH’s Valley Fever resource page.

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