Rob Purdy’s life-changing illness began with a headache, a terrible pain that began on New Year’s 2012 and lasted for months. It was only after several trips to emergency care facilities that many doctors and diagnostic errors — from sinus infections to cluster headaches — realized what was wrong.
The man residing in Bakersfield, California, He was suffering from meningitis caused by valley fever, a disease derived from coccidioides, an endemic fungus. From the soil of the southwestern United States. Years of debilitating illness, difficulties finding effective treatments and other difficulties.
“It robbed me of everything, my health,” Purdy said. “It had a huge impact on my family. We lost everything, all our financial security, all our pensions.” The story belongs to the Guardian and tells of a disease directly related to climate change.
Rob Purdy is one of the small percentage of people who develop severe forms of valley fever: Most people do not get sick after exposure and very few develop severe symptoms. But for those who develop the chronic form of the disease, it can be devastating.
Disease linked to climate change
Valley fever is on the rise in California’s Central Valley, a growth that has been observed for years. Experts say cases could increase across the American West in the future, As the climate crisis is making landscapes drier and warmer.
Kern County, located north of Los Angeles at the end of the Central Valley, has seen a significant increase over the past decade. The county, where Purdy lives, documented about 1,000 cases in 2014. In 2021, there were more than 3,000 casesaccording to public health data.
The disease that causes the fungus needs warm, dry conditions to surviveoffered by the southwestern United States, explains Al guardian Morgan Juris, an Earth system scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory who has studied the relationship between the climate crisis and valley fever.
“A large part of the western United States is already very dry. If we look at climate change projections, The western half of the United States is expected to remain somewhat dry and this will continue to promote Valley Fever‘ says Goris again.
The fungus grows in the ground as a thread that splits, breaks and becomes antenna when disturbed, travels up to 75 miles and, according to scientists, has infected sea otters. People can be exposed to valley fever by digging in undisturbed soil or simply by breathing.
The most severe outcome concerns 1% of exposed people
It is clear that people who work outdoors are considered to be more at risk. last summer, Seven firefighters who intervened to put out fires around the Tehachapi Mountains, southeast of Bakersfield, have been charged with respiratory illness.. According to an article published by the Center for Disease Control (Center for Disease Control, ed), three patients with valley fever were diagnosed.
According to the data collected, about 40% of people develop respiratory diseases that can be very mild, while 1% have more severe outcomes. Most people do not get sick after exposure to the fungus, and among those who do get sick, experts estimate that very few are actually diagnosed with valley fever.
In the United States, particularly Arizona and California, There were nearly 20,000 cases of valley fever reported to the CDC in 2019 and nearly 200 associated deaths each year from 1999 to 2019.According to the latest available data.
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