If you don’t know what Valley Fever is, you should because you may have already been exposed to it and not know it. Valley Fever is the result of a soil fungus that lives inside a person’s lungs and can lay dormant for weeks or months before symptoms start. Anyone who lives in or travels to an area where the fungus lives in the environment can get Valley Fever. Here in the Central Valley it is more common than most realize. And as reported recently in CALmatters, the effects of climate change in the Central Valley are only exacerbating the problem. Valley Fever can affect people of any age, but is most common in adults over age 60. Additionally, people with a compromised immune system are at higher risk for developing the severe forms of Valley Fever.
My father has Valley Fever, and developed the fungal infection living here in the Central Valley. He was diagnosed with the condition in 2016 during the summer months. One morning he woke feeling under the weather, thinking he may have been catching a cold. We soon learned that this was not an ordinary cold, because his temperature shot up to 105 degrees and his fever would not break. My mother took him to a nearby Urgent Care Center where they immediately said he needed to be taken to the hospital. My father went to the ER where he was tested, and nurses were able to bring his fever down. My mother was told he could go home although he was not feeling much better. The next day he woke covered in dark red blotches all over his arms, legs, and chest. He was in severe pain and could barely move. The hospital called us that morning and told my mother that my father needed to come back immediately and be quarantined until the doctors could figure out what was wrong with him. His blood tests came back and they believed he may have had pneumonia and sepsis of the blood. No one was really sure what he had and my father was quarantined for 4 days before the hospital brought in a specialist, it was then we learned he had Valley Fever. The whole process was terrifying for my father and our family. I had heard of Valley Fever, but I never experienced it first-hand or knew how deadly it could be for my father. I did research on the subject and found that this medical condition was unique to the Central Valley. I also found there is no real cure for it, and lifelong medication is often necessary to keep the symptoms under control.
The real question was how did my father get Valley Fever? He has several other medical conditions which prevent him from being outdoors, and he rarely leaves the house. However, he would always have the bedroom window open, and we soon learned that Valley Fever gets contracted by breathing in the microscopic fungus from the air. It is not a fever that spreads from person to person. Just breathing the air and being exposed to the area of where we live is enough to contract this frightening condition. Warm and dry climates caused by increases of temperature can result in more dust and chances of exposure.
My father is doing much better now that he takes his medication daily. My father was fortunate to act before the Valley Fever became deadly. He now lives with Valley Fever. Some days are better than others, but he is alive to share his experience in hopes it will shed more light on this unique medical condition to our area.