News / USA

Valley Fever Raises Concerns in California, Arizona

Valley Fever Raises Concerns in California, Arizonai
X
May 21, 2013 1:50 AM
A longstanding health problem in California's Central Valley has worsened in recent years, leading health officials to order the relocation of 3,000 prisoners from two state prisons. But the disease affects much of the population in some rural communities and, Mike O'Sullivan reports, while it often goes unnoticed, it sometimes can be devastating for patients.
Mike O'Sullivan
— A longstanding health problem in California's Central Valley has worsened in recent years, leading health officials to order the relocation of 3,000 prisoners from two state prisons.  But the disease affects much of the population in some rural communities and, while it often goes unnoticed, it sometimes can be devastating for patients.

Dale Pulde is selling his California home because he's unable to meet his payments.  The motorcycle mechanic and drag car racer was infected with Valley Fever in California's Central Valley and has mostly been unable to work. He used to race in the valley.  

He would often have aches and pains when he returned to his home in Los Angeles and, one year, he developed a terrible cough.  At first, he coughed so hard that he blacked out.

“Breaking out in welts and sweats.  The doctors didn't know what to do, and they had me loaded full of [the anti-inflammatory drug] prednisone and all kinds of different things, and it was basically getting worse," said Pulde.

In late 2010, doctors diagnosed him with Valley Fever, and he's been taking anti-fungal drugs since then, including one that costs nearly $1,000 a bottle.  

Valley Fever, known to doctors as coccidioidomycosis, is spread by fungal spores released into the air when the soil is disturbed.  It's becoming more common as people move into once rural areas, including California's Central Valley and other semi-arid areas of the US southwest, especially Arizona, and parts of Latin America.

Doctor Robert Kaplan is a specialist who teaches at the University of California, Irvine.  He says half of those infected show no symptoms, while others have aches and fever. In a a minority of patients, he says, there is lung disease and, in one percent, more serious conditions.  

“The most important one is meningitis, where it affects the lining of the brain and the spinal cord, and that can be a very, very bad disease," said Kaplan.

Valley Fever can also spread to the bones and, at its worst, can be fatal.

It's hardest on people with depressed immune systems and, for reasons not yet clear, on certain racial groups, says Dr. Claire Panosian Dunavan, a specialist at the University of California, Los Angeles.  

“Filipinos, African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanics and Asians," said Dunavan.

But others with little susceptibility are also vulnerable, like Seattle resident Sharon Filip.  She is Caucasian and was healthy but contracted the disease while visiting Arizona. Now, she operates a website called Valley Fever Survivor with her son David.

“I was a shadow of who I was beforehand.  And I should also say, I never had an immuno-compromised situation.  I was not sick.  I never was on medication," said Filip.

On the website, she has described her battle against the disease in graphic detail.  She says Valley Fever should get more attention.

Dr. Dunavan agrees.

“I think the first priority is to raise the awareness of patients and doctors who should be diagnosing it, trying to put people on treatment if it's warranted," she said.

There is so far no cure or vaccine to prevent Valley Fever, and reported cases are increasing.  Doctors say, for now, early detection is the most effective way to fight the disease.

You May Like

Koreas Mark 61st Anniversary of War Armistice

Muted observances on both sides of heavily-armed Demilitarized Zone that separates two decades-long enemies More

Judge Declares Washington DC Ban on Public Handguns Unconstitutional

Ruling overturns capital city's prohibition on carrying guns in pubic More

Pricey Hepatitis C Drug Draws Criticism

Activists are using the International AIDS Conference to criticize drug companies for charging high prices for life-saving therapies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Students in Business for Themselvesi
X
Mike O'Sullivan
July 26, 2014 11:04 AM
They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Not Even Monks Spared From Thailand’s Junta-Backed Morality Push

With Thailand’s military government firmly in control after May’s bloodless coup, authorities are carrying out plans they say are aimed at restoring discipline, morality and patriotism to all Thais. The measures include a crackdown on illegal gambling, education reforms to promote students’ moral development, and a new 24-hour phone hotline for citizens to report misbehaving monks. Steve Sandford reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Virtual Program Teaches Farming Skills

In a fast-changing world beset by unpredictable climate conditions, farmers cannot afford to ignore new technology. Researchers in Australia are developing an online virtual world program to share information about climate change and more sustainable farming techniques for sugar cane growers. As VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports, the idea is to create a wider support network for farmers.
Video

Video Airline Expert: Missile will Show Signature on Debris

The debris field from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is spread over a 21-kilometer radius in eastern Ukraine. It is expected to take investigators months to sort through the airplane pieces to learn about the missile that brought down the jetliner and who fired it. VOAs Carolyn Presutti explains how this work will be done.
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

AppleAndroid