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Increase in reported valley fever cases locally and statewide

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has announced an increase in the number of new valley fever cases. Three cases occurred in San Benito County.
Coccidioidomycosis 01.jpg More details Histo-pathological changes in a case of en:coccidioidomycosis of the lung showing a large fibrocaseous en:nodule. Obtained from the CDC Public Health Image Library. Image credit: CDC/Dr. Martin D. Hicklin (PHIL #3930), 1964.

This announcement has been provided by Samela Perez, San Benito Public Health Services.

The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) has announced an increase in the number of new valley fever cases reported from local health departments in California in 2017, compared with the number of cases reported for the same period in 2016.

In San Benito County, the reported number of cases year to date is three, up from one in 2016, and none in 2015. There have been seven confirmed cases of valley fever recently reported among employees working at the solar project site in Panoche, but only one of those is a resident of San Benito County. Lynn Mello, Director of Nursing and Public Health Administrator for San Benito County Health and Human services said that the cases related to the Panoche Valley solar project are being handled by CalOSHA. 

Valley fever, also known as coccidioidomycosis, or “cocci”, is caused by the spore of a fungus that grows in soil in parts of California, Arizona, and other areas of the southwestern United States. People get infected by breathing in spores present in dust that gets into the air when it is windy or when soil is disturbed, such as through digging during construction. Solar project construction sites in San Luis Obispo and Monterey Counties had Valley Fever outbreaks among their employees in recent years.

The number of valley fever cases varies from year to year, and by season. Cases can be more common in the late summer and fall. It is unknown why there has been an apparent increase in valley fever cases in California in 2017.

“With an increase in reported Valley Fever cases, it is important that people living, working, and traveling in California are aware of its symptoms, especially in the southern San Joaquin Valley and the Central Coast, where it is most common,” said CDPH Director and State Public Health Officer Dr. Karen Smith.

A person can reduce the risk of infection by avoiding breathing in dirt or dust in areas where valley fever is common. In these areas, when it is windy outside and the air is dusty, stay inside and keep windows and doors closed. While driving, keep car windows closed and use recirculating air conditioning, if available. If you must be outdoors when it is windy and dusty, consider wearing a properly fitted mask (such as an N95 respirator mask, which is widely available in retail stores), and refrain from disturbing the soil whenever possible. Employers should train their workers about valley fever symptoms and take steps to limit workers’ exposure to dust.

Most infected people will not show signs of illness. Those who do become ill with valley fever may have symptoms similar to other illnesses, including influenza or bacterial or viral pneumonia, so valley fever is not always recognized. The flu-like symptoms can last for two weeks or more. While most people recover fully, some people are at risk for more severe disease or complications of valley fever such as pneumonia, infection of the brain, joints, bone, skin or other organs. People with an increased risk for severe disease include those 60 years or older, pregnant women, and people with diabetes or conditions that weaken their immune system. For unknown reasons, African-Americans and Filipinos are at increased risk for severe disease.

“In San Benito County, anyone who develops flu-like symptoms, such as cough, fever, or difficulty breathing, lasting two weeks or more, should ask their health care provider about valley fever,” says San Benito County Health Officer, Dr. Gail Newel. “This is especially true for those working in occupations involving disruption of soil, such as farming and construction work.”

For more information visit CDPH’s Valley Fever website:

http://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DCDC/Pages/Coccidioidomycosis.aspx

and the CDC’s Valley Fever website:

http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/coccidioidomycosis/index.html

Check on the San Benito Public Health Services website for updates: http://hhsa.cosb.us/publichealth/.

About:
San Benito County Public Health Services County Government Agency (samela perez)

Public Information Officer for San Benito County Public Health Services

Comments

I'm a Panoche Valley farmer and resident.  Three of my neighbors have come down with Valley Fever since the solar project broke ground.  This is one of the things we were gravely concerned about when the project was proposed, and one of the many risks to the local populace that our county officials ignored when they wrote a Statement of Overriding Considerations to permit the project, even though it violated a slew of local ordinances.  This article implies that because many of the project employees who have contracted the disease do not reside within the county, this is not a huge concern to local residents. 
Nothing could be further from the truth.

On another note, this article provides support to the fact that the majority of people hired to construct the solar project are not San Benito residents. 
One of the main opposition arguments against this project was the fact that productive agriculture land was being converted to an industrial use that would be severely detrimental to the surrounding agricultural community.  Our Board of Supervisors and Planning Department overrode the county ordinance protection for local farmers and ranchers in favor of an outside Goldman Sachs developer because they said this project would create a significant amount of jobs for local residents during the temporary construction period.
This has not proven to be the case.
Local farmers and ranchers are contracting Valley Fever from the massive soil disturbance the project is creating on thousands of acres, and our businesses are suffering from it, as well as other negative impacts created by the project, such as decimated roadways and limited roadway access. 
This project is a boondoggle to the County, and will continue to be for many generations to come, thanks to our county official putting outside developers before local residents and business owners.
Shame on them.

Ms. Williams can't have it both ways claiming that this is productive farmland and that the solar project is the cause of Valley Fever.  Every single article I've read states that FARMING disturbs the soil enough and causes cause the Valley Fever too.  For instance, "Jan 27, 2016 - When the ground is disturbed by wind, construction, farming or other movement, the spores become airborne and can be inhaled, infecting the lungs and other ... Anyone can get valley fever if they live in or have visited an area where the fungus Coccidioides lives, especially southern Arizona or California's ...  (UC Davis and many more).

For instance -   PHOENIX (AP) — The number of valley fever cases in Arizona surged in November, putting the state at a year-end total above 2016, the Arizona Department of Health Services said.  There were 926 cases reported in November, the highest monthly total since September 2015, The Arizona Republic reported Wednesday.  Officials aren't sure how to explain the November surge, said Cara Christ, the state's health care director.  The high volume of reports in November will likely put 2017's total over the 6,101 cases reported in 2016.(no mention of Solar construction)

I want to point out that Ms. Williams has constantly demanded they move this project to the Westlands that are heavily contaminated with Selenium - which is much worse than Valley Fever - and when I pointed out how dangerous that was for the workers she had no sympathy at all, just NIMBY.  Now she claims to be worker friendly.

Ms. Williams helped ruin the project and now complains that it was ruined - that's chutzpah

Marty Richman

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