Via the Reno Gazette-Journal: 5 cases of valley fever reported in Washoe County. Excerpt:
Health officials are blaming the four-year drought after five cases of valley fever were recently reported in Washoe County—an illness that is common in southwestern states, but rare in Northern Nevada.
Since 2008, a yearly average of two to three cases of valley fever have been reported in the region, said Randall Todd, Washoe County Health District director of epidemiology and public health preparedness. Most of those individuals become infected while traveling to other neighboring states, he said.
This year, infected individuals in two of the five cases said they haven’t traveled out of the county, Todd said. Although concerning, it doesn’t prove anything, he said.
“When we identify a case, (infected individuals) almost always report traveling to areas that have more cases than we do like in California or Arizona,” Todd said. “So having a couple of people with confirmed valley fever, but have reportedly not traveled outside the area, it’s interesting.”
Valley fever, also known as coccidioidomycosis, is soil-borne fungus that causes lung infection, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. People become infected when they breathe in the spores.
Although 60 percent of infected people don’t show symptoms, about 5 to 10 percent may have long-term breathing problems, Todd said.
The illness could also spread to other areas outside the lungs and cause meningitis in about 1 percent of infected people. The fungus might also affect the nervous system and spinal cord and cause bone and joint problems in others.
Valley fever is common in southern Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and in the San Joaquin Valley in California. It’s also found in Texas, Mexico and most recently in south central Washington. It’s considered highly endemic in southern Arizona and central California.
“It kind of just stops shy of us here,” Todd said. “The Las Vegas area sees more cases than we do up here. Every time we get one of these cases (in Washoe County), my question to staff is, ‘Where have they have been?’ ”