Preventing Work-Related Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis)
Ten members of a 12-person construction crew excavating a trench developed Valley Fever (coccidioidomycosis), an illness with pneumonia and flu-like symptoms. Seven had abnormal chest x-rays, four had rashes, and one had an infection that spread beyond his lungs. The 10 ill crew members missed at least 1660 hours of work; two of the workers were on disability for months.
Some of these workers were counted among the over 1000 Californians hospitalized with Valley Fever every year. About eight of every 100 people hospitalized die from the infection annually. Yet workplace health and safety plans often do not even mention Valley Fever, despite the fact that it can be disabling or fatal.
Workers who dig or otherwise disturb soil containing the Coccidioides immitis fungus are at risk for getting the illness. The fungus lives in the soil in parts of California, particularly the Central Valley. When people inhale the fungal spores released when the soil is disturbed, they may get Valley Fever.
Some workers at higher risk for Valley Fever include wildland firefighters, construction workers, archaeologists, military personnel, and workers in mining, gas and oil extraction jobs.
The Occupational Health Branch (OHB) has investigated Valley Fever in multiple types of jobs to better understand and explain to employers and workers how to prevent the illness.
Photo: Construction and other workers who disturb soil are at risk
OHB materials on Valley Fever
Additional information and resources
Hazard Evaluation System and Information Service (HESIS)
Occupational Health Branch