Preventing Work-Related Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis)
Every year, over 1,000 Californians receive hospital treatment for Valley Fever (coccidioidomycosis), an illness with pneumonia and flu-like symptoms. 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.