valley fever

Just One Breath
6:24 pm
Sun October 7, 2012

Town hall event focuses on valley fever concerns

State Senator Michael Rubio led a town hall meeting on Friday in Bakersfield to address concerns about valley fever
Joe Moore Valley Public Radio

San Joaquin Valley residents, doctors and experts demanding improvements in the way valley fever is studied, diagnosed and treated shared their concerns during a town hall meeting hosted by state Senator Michael Rubio, D-Shafter, in Bakersfield on Friday.

Experts stressed the need for earlier diagnosis of the disease. That requires better education about the disease for providers and the public, they said.

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Just One Breath
3:17 pm
Sun October 7, 2012

Valley fever vaccine effort lacks federal funding

The federal government is the single biggest source for the primary research that leads to new vaccines. 

But, like the pharmaceutical industry, it currently is not supporting a valley fever vaccine. Other diseases that affect far fewer people receive much more federal support. 

Tularemia only affects about 200 people in the country annually, less than 1 percent of the estimated 150,000 people hit by valley fever. Like valley fever, the disease is primarily concentrated in only a portion of the country, mostly in the south-central and western part of the country.

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Just One Breath
2:58 pm
Sun October 7, 2012

Valley fever vaccine stalls after early promise

Dr. Demosthenes Pappagianis, the lab where he and members of his research staff are developing a Valley Fever vaccine, inside Tupper Hall at University of California, Davis.
Photo by Brian Baer/Special To The Sacramento Bee

Just eight years ago, a vaccine to stop valley fever seemed within reach.

Ambitious scientists at five universities had brought in millions of dollars since 1997 from private donations and government funding to develop a way to beat the fungus before it ever had a chance to lodge in a person’s lungs and wreak havoc on his or her organs.

In 2004, they announced they had selected a pathway to pursue a vaccine.

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Just One Breath
2:00 pm
Sun October 7, 2012

Scientists took different routes to find valley fever vaccine

Dr. Demosthenes Pappagianis, the lab where he and members of his research staff are developing a Valley Fever vaccine, inside Tupper Hall at University of California, Davis.
Photo by Brian Baer/Special To The Sacramento Bee

Five scientists were chosen by a committee affiliated with California State University, Bakersfield, in 1997 to pursue vaccine research.

Dr. John Galgiani, 66, professor at the University of Arizona and director of the Valley Fever Center for Excellence

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Just One Breath
6:05 am
Sat September 22, 2012

Valley fever costs mount for patients and taxpayers

Today, 25-year-old Berenice Parra looks like a picture of health. But surrounded by her family, husband, Jorge, and their children, Irene, 9, Isaac, 6, and Jorge, 5, she remembers how in July 2010 she became so seriously ill she thought she was dying.
Henry A. Barrios/The Bakersfield Californian

Berenice Parra was sick for eight months before doctors realized she had a severe form of the fungal disease valley fever.

“I was literally dying without a cure,” said Parra, a 25-year-old mother of three from Arvin, in Kern County.

Desperate for relief and concerned that doctors in the Bakersfield area weren’t taking her illness seriously, she drove 245 miles to Tijuana, three times, to see a doctor recommended by relatives.

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Just One Breath
5:23 am
Sat September 22, 2012

Valley fever forces police captain to give up his badge

In this 2005 photo, Capt. Archie Scott leaves the scene of an armed roberry at a Chevron Valley Credit Union in Bakersfield.
The Bakersfield Californian

When Archie Scott came down with valley fever, he was 52, extremely fit and a captain in the Bakersfield Police Department. 

One day in 2007, he started feeling feverish and lethargic with joint aches. He went to his physician, but the diagnosis was inconclusive. Weeks later, when he still had a fever, he went to a neurologist for additional testing. 

“We didn’t know what we were dealing with,” Scott said. 

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Just One Breath
5:17 am
Sat September 22, 2012

Taxpayers spend millions on valley fever in prisons

Californians are locked into contributing to the cost of treating state inmates sickened by valley fever. 

Since 2006, the state prison system has tried but failed to reduce the disease’s impact and price tag.

California Correctional Health Care Services foots an annual bill of about $23 million for sending inmates with valley fever to hospitals outside the prison, guarding these patients, and for their antifungal treatments. That’s about what it costs to build a new school in Fresno County.

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Just One Breath
6:30 am
Sat September 15, 2012

Just One Breath: Valley fever robs daughter of mother at crucial time

Candice Steed remembers peering at her mother through a hospital room window in Bakersfield when she was just 8 years old .

Sharron Steed lay heavily sedated, a ventilator keeping her weakened body alive.

“They told us to say goodbye to my mom,” recalled Candice , now 20.

Sharron, a social worker, had contracted a severe form of valley fever. It ravaged her body with night sweats and fevers. A collapsed lung landed her in the hospital, and the symptoms only got worse.

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Just One Breath
6:01 am
Sat September 15, 2012

The Voices of Valley Fever

‘Not being able to breathe was the worst.’

MERCED — The walk from Tom Price’s living room to his kitchen was only a few feet. But it felt like miles.

The 33-year-old from Merced was hit with valley fever in 2006. He had trouble breathing, and he was so fatigued for a month that the simplest tasks felt arduous.

“It was scary,” he said. “It was the first time I had ever been very sick. Not being able to breathe was the worst.”

Price remembers developing a high fever and sweats. He went to his regular doctor, who thought he had the flu.

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Health
2:39 pm
Thu September 13, 2012

Valley Fever Sickens Many, But Still Lacks Attention

Here in California's San Joaquin Valley, the disease known as valley fever can strike anyone at almost anyone at almost anytime. Just ask Dr. James McCarthy.

"It's pretty difficult to prevent something that you can acquire just by breathing in the air," says McCarthy. 

Just breathing in the air. Air that contains the spores of a soil fungus found throughout much of the Southwest, but especially in the southern portions of the San Joaquin Valley. 

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Valley Edition
7:09 pm
Mon September 10, 2012

On Valley Edition: Valley Fever 'Epidemic'; Inner City Unemployment; Sierra Art Trails

On this Valley Edition, host Juanita Stevenson examines the recent surge in the number of cases of valley fever in the Central Valley, talks about solutions to the problem of inner city unemployment, and looks ahead to the upcoming events of the Sierra Art Trails program in the foothills of central California. 

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Just One Breath
6:03 am
Sun September 9, 2012

When Valley Fever Struck Celebrated Winemaker, Doctors Missed It

Todd and Tammy Schaefer walk through a neighbor’s vineyard with their Old English Mastiff, Daisy Ray. Todd was working in a vineyard when he contracted valley fever.
Laura Dickinson/ Vida en el Valle

Todd and Tammy Schaefer appear the picture of good fortune and good health.

Tall, fit and well dressed, the couple met in Malibu, where they established their wine business. In 2001, they moved to Paso Robles, in San Luis Obispo County, and focused on Pacific Coast Vineyards full-time.

That’s where their long nightmare with valley fever began. Early in October 2003, Todd Schaefer was running a bulldozer that kicked up a thick cloud of dust.

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Just One Breath
6:00 am
Sun September 9, 2012

Changing climate may expand valley fever’s impact

Thomas Mace, senior scientific adviser to NASA, helps Cal State Bakersfield microbiologist Antje Lauer pour a soil sample into a test tube near Bear Valley Springs.
Shelby Mack / The Californian

Valley fever feeds on heat.

And as the average temperature ticks up with each passing decade, experts are concerned that the fungus’ footprint and impact are expanding, as evidenced by a rise in cases in areas far outside the hot spots of the Central Valley of California.

In the soil, the cocci fungus lives on dead organic matter. Less rainfall and higher temperatures reduce overall vegetation, diminishing soil competition for the hardy fungus, scientists say. Cocci spores survive—even thrive—when the environment is drier and hotter since other competitors die off.

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Just One Breath
6:01 am
Sat September 8, 2012

Just One Breath: Valley fever cases reach epidemic levels, but harm remains hidden

Dust storms like this one that blasted Fresno in June can carry millions of spores from the fungus that causes Valley Fever.
Craig Kohlruss The Fresno Bee

This special report is a project of the Reporting On Health Collaborative

Valley fever starts with the simple act of breathing. 

The fungal spores, lifted from the dry dirt by the wind, pass through your nostrils or down your throat, so tiny they don’t even trigger a cough. They lodge in your lungs. If you’re fortunate – and most people are – they go no further.  

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Just One Breath
6:00 am
Sat September 8, 2012

Valley Fever cases missed because of lack of awareness

A correctional officer watches from a guard tower seen through the razor wire near Kern Valley State Prison in Delano. The extent of valley fever’s under-diagnosis becomes clear when reviewing cases reported by prisons located in the Central Valley.
Casey Christie The Californian

The soaring nationwide figures for valley fever don’t tell the whole story.

Problems with screening for the disease and tracking it over time mean that thousands of cases go undetected and untreated every year, leading experts to believe the second epidemic is likely worse than documented.

Valley fever often goes unrecognized, especially in places where the disease is not widespread. Doctors aren’t familiar with its wide variety of symptoms. Often, the early symptoms of valley fever are similar to those of pneumonia.

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Just One Breath
6:00 am
Sat September 8, 2012

Disease sidetracks girl with dreams of dancing

Emily Gorospe, showing off her dance wardrobe, was forced to leave dance lessons after she was diagnosed with valley fever.
Daniel Casarez/Vida en el Valle

Very little can stop 7-year-old Emily Gorospe from dancing.

Early this summer, she twirled in her bedroom, holding to her chest her colorful, ruffled dance costumes as if they were her dancing partners.

But last spring, Emily did not have enough energy to dance – let alone walk down the hallway of her family’s home.

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Just One Breath
6:00 am
Sat September 8, 2012

Valley Fever basics

What is valley fever?

Valley fever, also known as coccidioidomycosis, is a disease caused by a fungus called coccidioides immitis found in the soil primarily in certain parts of the Southwestern United States, Mexico and Central and South America. A person can become infected by inhaling the spores of the fungus. The infection starts in the lungs, but can spread to other organs in the body and the bones.

What are the symptoms?

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Just One Breath
8:38 pm
Fri September 7, 2012

Putting Valley Fever on the Front Burner

Emily Gorospe uses an inhaler to treat her valley fever with antifungal medication.
Daniel Casarez/Vida en el Valle Reporting on Health Collaborative

How does knowledge about unfamiliar diseases enter the public consciousness and the public policy agenda?

As editor of Reporting on Health, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about this question as we launch a series by a new reporting collaborative I brought together. It includes news outlets whose reporters have participated in our California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships. Reporting on Health Contributing Editor William Heisel has ably served as project editor for this effort. 

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