CDC chief: Valley fever a 'growing problem' in California

September 24, 2013 by Eryn Brown

U.S. Centers for Disease Control Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, called valley fever "a big and growing problem" that presents "substantial" economic and health costs for Californians.

The CDC chief - along with National Institutes of Health Director Dr. Francis Collins, U.S. Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and others - was in Kern County this week for a two-day symposium on the . During a program Monday night, the officials announced that they would work with physicians in California's Central Valley, where the fungus that causes is widespread in the soil, to conduct a clinical trial to evaluate treatments for the illness. There is no cure for valley fever.

"We don't know the best way to treat it, we don't have a vaccine," Frieden said, adding that questions also remain about the best way to diagnose the disease and other aspects of "what's happening on the ground."

What's certain, he said, is that the disease, also known as , is on the rise in California. In 2011, the state reported 5,697 cases. In 1998, the state reported only 719 cases. Frieden said he believed the increase in diagnosed cases did reflect an increase in incidence of the disease - not just improvements in detection.

Valley fever cannot pass from person to person, and doesn't cause serious illness in everyone who is exposed to it. But some who are sickened when they inhale the spores of the Coccidioides fungus can develop a flu-like illness that can progress to pneumonia, meningitis and throughout the body.

According to a May 2013 article in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 2011 incidence of the illness in California among males was more than twice as high as incidence among females. Valley fever is most common among people over 60, but also strikes younger people. African-Americans, Asians, women in their of pregnancy and people with compromised immunity are at increased risk for serious forms of the disease.

Arizona had more than 16,000 cases in 2011; Nevada, New Mexico and Utah combined had 237. Frieden said valley fever had cost the U.S. $1 billion in hospitalizations alone in the last decade. More still has been spent on other medical treatment, lost days of work and other costs.

One focus for CDC epidemiologists, Frieden said, will be to understand better what questions the clinical trial should pursue, including what outcomes it makes sense to study, what lab results researchers should track, and where most cases are being diagnosed. Collins told symposium attendees Monday evening that it would be a year before patients were recruited for the study, and that results would not be forthcoming for another four to five years after that.

Explore further: Valley fever hospitalizations increase in Calif.

Related Stories

Valley fever hospitalizations increase in Calif.

September 11, 2013
A new study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the annual rate of hospitalizations for valley fever, a potentially lethal but often misdiagnosed disease, has doubled over the past 12 years in ...

Valley fever fungal infection on rise in Southwest

March 28, 2013
(HealthDay)—Cases of a fungal lung infection called Valley Fever increased sharply in several southwestern states since the late 1990s, according to a report released Thursday.

Valley fever hits 28 at Calif. solar plant sites

May 1, 2013
(AP)—Authorities are investigating a valley fever outbreak that sickened 28 workers at solar power plants under construction in Central California.

New Lyme disease estimate: 300,000 cases a year

August 19, 2013
Health officials say Lyme disease is about 10 times more common than previously reported.

Recommended for you

Novel therapies for multidrug-resistant bacteria

October 23, 2017
During this innovative study published in PLOS One, researchers found that novel classes of compounds, such as metal-complexes, can be used as alternatives to or to supplement traditional antibiotics, which have become ineffective ...

Key discoveries offer significant hope of reversing antibiotic resistance

October 23, 2017
Resistance to antibiotics is becoming increasingly prevalent and threatens to undermine healthcare systems across the globe. Antibiotics including penicillins, cephalosporins and carbapenems are known as β-lactams and are ...

Pneumonia vaccine under development provides 'most comprehensive coverage' to date, alleviates antimicrobial concerns

October 20, 2017
In 2004, pneumonia killed more than 2 million children worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. By 2015, the number was less than 1 million.

Newly discovered viral marker could help predict flu severity in infected patients

October 20, 2017
Flu viruses contain defective genetic material that may activate the immune system in infected patients, and new research published in PLOS Pathogens suggests that lower levels of these molecules could increase flu severity.

Migraines may be the brain's way of dealing with oxidative stress

October 19, 2017
A new perspective article highlights a compelling theory about migraine attacks: that they are an integrated mechanism by which the brain protects and repairs itself. Recent insightful findings and potential ways to use them ...

H7N9 influenza is both lethal and transmissible in animal model for flu

October 19, 2017
In 2013, an influenza virus that had never before been detected began circulating among poultry in China. It caused several waves of human infection and in late 2016, the number of people to become sick from the H7N9 virus ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.