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Valley Fever

Valley fever (Coccidioidomycosis) is an infection caused by inhalation of the spores of a soil-inhabiting fungus, Coccidioides Immitis. The disease is a public-health issue of great importance in some desert regions of the world. It is of particular concern in the desert southwestern United States, due to rapid population growth, increased outdoor recreational activities, and placement of military personnel for active training. These demographic changes place an increasingly large, previously unexposed population within endemic areas. These conditions, coupled with increasing numbers of individuals with suppressed immune systems, are a National concern that results in many millions of dollars in medical treatment costs annually.

Dusts can be generated from fungus-containing soils by a variety of natural processes, such as earthquake-triggered landslides, and wind attack on soil matter eroded by rainstorms. The dusts can also be generated by human activities such as construction that disturb the soils.

The USGS and cooperators in the public-health community are carrying out interdisciplinary research that examines the potential geological and geochemical controls on the occurrence of this fungus in soils of the southwestern United States. By understanding the likely bedrock types, soil characteristics, climate, and related factors that may influence fungus habitat in the soils, a predictive model can be developed for fungus occurrence.

More information:

Additional publications:

Bultman, Mark, Fisher, Frederick S., and Pappagianis, Demosthenes, 2004, An overview of the ecology of soil-borne human pathogens: in, Selinus, O., and others, eds., Essentials of Medical Geology, Elsevier, Chapter 19.

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