Valley Fever is spreading beyond Southern California and, like, climate change is totally making it worse, the LA Times reports. Transmitted by dust, coccidioidomycosis (“cocci” for short) is a fungal infection that can cause extreme, sometimes long-term, respiratory problems and can spread to the skin, bones, joints, and nervous system and lead to meningitis or pneumonia. “On a pain scale of one to 10, it was a 10,” Scott Shirley, a winemaker in Paso Robles, Calif., said. “The worst pain I’ve ever felt.” The fungus thrives in wet winters and dry summers and spreads as wind blows dust in the air, sometimes as far as 75 miles.
Wildland firefighters are especially vulnerable as so much of their work involves moving dirt to form containment lines — studies suggest wildfire smoke can carry the fungi as well — and outbreaks have also been reported at multiple state prisons in the San Joaquin Valley. Warming and drying trends fueled by climate change could make greater swaths of the western U.S. more vulnerable to the fungus. “It isn’t based on population, it isn’t because we build houses — there has to be more that’s changed than that,” said Royce Johnson, medical director at the Valley Fever Institute, “and we think it’s climate, weather.” (LA Times $)