The fungal disease can afflict individuals of any age and ethnic group—even those who have lived and worked in the valley for decades. As part of our first-person series My Valley, My Story, we travel to the annual Valley Fever Walk in Bakersfield, where a 54-year-old Kern County man shares his story of overcoming the disease.
"My name is James Taplin. I was diagnosed in 2010 and, like many others, I thought I had pneumonia, but I went to my primary physician who thought I was having a heart attack. I ended up in Bakersfield Heart Hospital where they diagnosed me pretty much immediately--and I'm of the firm belief that it saved my life.
"I was in the hospital nearly a month, and it took me a year to heal. Maybe not completely, but almost get there. I actually initially got worse. I went through the whole thing: I bottomed out, and resuscitation, and all those things that people don't really like to talk about. When I got out of the hospital I could not literally open a bottle of water. I just had no strength.
"I feel like it was a blessing that I was able to come back.
I'm an environmental engineer, so I work a lot in the oilfields. They told me that I had it and I thought, 'I've been here all my life.' I knew what it was, but I couldn't have even told you it was a fungus disease. Other people got it--that's just what I knew.
"But I think it was part of work and working in the fields and dust. And that's why I try to share what I went through. Most people don't go through what I went through but I probably would have tried to find something else to do.
"I'm fortunate to be here but the trade-off could've been not worth it."