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Valley Fever Or Coccidioidomycosis Common In Prisons

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Coccidioides is a soil dwelling fungi which is especially common in desert areas such as southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. Coccidioides can infect the lung and sometimes spread to other organs such as the brain. Coccidioidomycosis infections can range from a mild febrile illness to chronic infections to death. Coccidioidomycosis infections are also known as “Valley Fever”     


Marie De Perio et al. Coccidioides exposure and coccidioidomycosis among prison employees, California, United States. Emerging Infectious Diseases June 2015;21:1031-3.

Coccidioidies is a soil fungi which easily becomes dustborne, and exposure to dust in endemic areas is associated with higher risk of Coccidioidomycosis infections. Outbreaks of Coccidioidomycosis have been associated with windstorms, earthquakes, military training exercises, hunting trips, and archaeological expeditions. 

Recent evidence also suggests that Coccidioidomycosis is common in prisons in endemic areas. A case series reported 103 cases of Coccidioidomycosis among employees in 2 prisons in California’s Central Valley over a 4.5 year period. This does not include many cases of “Valley Fever” among the prison inmates.

Coccidioides spores can travel for many miles on dust. The recent California droughts increase the amount of dust in the air and probably also increase the risk of “Valley Fever”. Risk of coccidioidomycosis infection can be reduced by wearing respirators or masks in dusty conditions. Other control measures include planting drought tolerant vegetation to reduce dustiness, reducing dust production during soil excavation activities, and staying indoors and using indoor air filters during dust storms.



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