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Occupational health branch

Occupational Health Watch: July 2022

Fire season brings more than smoke – Valley fever is still hot in parts of CA

People who work outdoors in California's Central Valley, Central Coast, and other nearby locations, especially workers who dig or disturb soil, are at risk for Valley fever, an illness that can cause disability or even death. In California, the number of reported Valley fever cases continues to be high in recent years.

Firefighters in dirt fireIn fall 2021, the CDPH Occupational Health Branch (OHB) and Infectious Diseases Branch investigated a cluster of Valley fever in a wildland firefighter crew that was linked to a three-day fire in central California, an area known for high rates of Valley fever. Three members of a 21-person fire crew were hospitalized with Valley fever. The firefighters who got sick reported heavy dust exposure while they were digging trenches and "mopping-up" the fire, which included digging and moving soil to extinguish the fire.

Valley fever can affect people in different ways, but early diagnosis is important, especially because Valley fever can be severe for some. OHB recommends that wildland firefighters and firefighters responding to fires in the wildland-urban interface are trained on Valley fever and encouraged to report symptoms that could be Valley fever. This is equally important for workers in other outdoor settings where Valley fever is common.

Symptoms of Valley Fever



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