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Occupational Health Branch

Occupational Health Watch: July 2019

Valley Fever Is a Work-Related Illness

Bulldozer-dust-300x200People who work outdoors or on jobs that disturb dirt are at risk of becoming sick with Valley fever, a potentially deadly illness caused by a fungus found in the soil in parts of California.

Symptoms of Valley fever include fatigue, cough, fever, and chest pain that can last for weeks or months. California’s Central Valley and Central Coast regions have the most cases of Valley fever. There is no reliable way to test soil for the fungus that causes Valley fever.

Employers and workers can learn more on our work-related Valley fever web page.

Employers – If your job is in an area where Valley fever has been reported:

  • Include Valley fever as a hazard in your Injury and Illness Prevention Program.
  • Plan projects to minimize dirt disturbance, and use water to keep dust down.
  • Train workers on ways to prevent exposure to dust and about the symptoms of Valley fever.
  • Provide enclosed cabs with filtered air for heavy machinery work.
  • Provide and ensure the correct use of respirators.
  • Refer workers with symptoms to physicians familiar with Valley fever.
  • Report illness on Cal/OSHA 5020 form (PDF) and 300 logs.

Workers – If you are working in an area where Valley fever has been reported:

  • Stay upwind or away from dirt-disturbing work whenever possible.
  • Close vehicle windows and use recirculating air when driving near dust.
  • Wear a half-mask respirator or a more protective respirator when digging or disturbing dust.
  • Tell your employer if you have symptoms, and request to see an occupational health physician. You cannot be fired for being sick on the job in California.
  • If you have symptoms, tell your doctor about your work exposures.
Health Care Providers:
  • Ask patients with Valley fever symptoms about their work. If you suspect Valley fever related to a patient's work, complete a Doctor's First Report (PDF) and assist the patient with filing for workers' compensation.
  • Test for Valley fever if indicated based on symptoms and work history.
  • Stay up-to-date on the latest Valley fever knowledge, diagnosis, and treatment.


Photo: Workers on jobs that disturb dirt are at risk for becoming sick with Valley fever.

Resources

Work-related Valley fever – OHB website

Valley fever information – California Department of Public Health website



Email Occupational Health Watch (OHW@cdph.ca.gov) with feedback or change of address.

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