The deadly fungal infection that kills 1 in 100 patients known as “Valley Fever” may spread to 17 states, experts have warned KossyDerrickBlog KossyDerrickEnt


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Friday, February 3, 2023

The deadly fungal infection that kills 1 in 100 patients known as “Valley Fever” may spread to 17 states, experts have warned

The deadly fungal infection that kills 1 in 100 patients known as “Valley Fever” may spread to 17 states, experts have warned.

While Valley Fever, also known as Coccidioides, is typically found in warm, arid climates predominately in the southwest, there is growing concern that it will spread to other areas of the United States.

The fungus is endemic to the desert-like parts of the Southwest, and 97 percent of all American cases are found in Arizona and California. 

But a study in the journal GeoHealth predicted that, due to climate change, the endemic region of the fungus will spread north to include dry western states such as Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota, and North Dakota.

In a high-warming scenario, this would mean that by 2100 the number of affected states could rise from 12 to 17, while the number of cases could increase by 50 percent.

In October last year, the World Health Organization (WHO) released the first ever list of fungal pathogens that pose a risk to human health.

Dr Hanan Balkhy, assistant director-general for antimicrobial resistance at WHO, said: 'Emerging from the shadows of the bacterial antimicrobial resistance pandemic, fungal infections are growing, and are ever more resistant to treatments, becoming a public health concern worldwide.'

Valley fever is already tricky to treat, and there is no vaccine for it. Patients might have to take antifungal medication for months and endure unpleasant side effects such as hair loss and scaly skin.

Scientists have been trying to formulate a Valley Fever vaccine for decades, but a shot tested in humans in the 1980s did not perform well.

In the past few years, scientists from the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson have created a vaccine that works in dogs, who are also at risk of the infection.

The US Department of Agriculture could approve the shot for canines by early 2024, which would be the first one to protect against a fungal infection in humans or animals in America.

However, it can't spread from person to person.

“As the temperatures warm up, and the western half of the U.S. stays quite dry, our desert-like soils will kind of expand and these drier conditions could allow Coccidioides to live in new places,” Morgan Gorris, a staff scientist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, told NBC News.

According to the California Department of Public Health, 97 percent of all U.S. Valley Fever cases are reported in Arizona and California.

Besides the southwestern U.S., you could also get the infection in parts of South America, Mexico, and Central America.

While Valley Fever cannot turn the host into a zombie, it can cause serious harm to some sufferers, and kills one in 100 who contract the infection.

Coccidioidomycosis or cocci originates from a fungus that grows in the soil in some areas of California and southwestern US.

The fungus spore is whipped up into the air when the soil is disturbed by the wind or digging. 

When humans or animals breathe in the spores, they travel through the respiratory tract and into the lungs, where they reproduce, causing further disease.

Most infections are mild and clear up on their own within a few days or weeks, and the infection cannot be passed between people or animals. 

Most people who have the mild form of infection will not realize because its symptoms — fatigue, cough, fever, aching muscles and breathlessness — mimic those of a respiratory virus infection.

Other symptoms include night sweats, joint aches and a red rash, usually on the legs but occasionally on the chest, arms and back. As climate change worsens, the fungus could invade additional parts of the U.S., Dr Paris Salazar-Hamm, a researcher at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, told USA TODAY.

In a "high warming scenario," Valley Fever could spread from 12 to 17 states, with the number of cases increasing by 50 percent by 2100, according to a 2019 study from AGU (Advancing Earth and Space Science).

“Fungal pathogens are a group that get vastly overlooked and Valley Fever is an interesting model because it’s associated with the climate,” Salazar-Hamm said.

While the fungus that causes Valley Fever is found in soil, someone could get it by breathing in the microscopic fungus from the air, according to the CDC.

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