Those folks who live somewhere other than the Southwest may be unfamiliar with valley fever, the lung infection mentioned by Jo Anne Plog in the preceding article. So, what is it, and how does it affect humans?
Valley fever is another name for coccidioidomycosis, a sometimes deadly lung infection. It is called valley fever because the organism that causes it is commonly found in the soil of the San Joaquin Valley in California, in several areas in Arizona, and in parts of Central and South America.
It is caused by Coccidioides immitis, a fungus that produces spores. If soil containing the valley fever fungus—usually soil from ancient sea beds—is disturbed by construction, natural disasters, or wind, the fungus spores get into the air. People can then breathe in the spores and contract valley fever. The disease is not spread from person to person, and about sixty percent who get it have no symptoms, but about five percent do eventually die.