WSU Extension Q&A: More information about Valley Fever

WSU ExtensionMay 9, 2014 

LIFE DIRT 1 WI

KRT LIFESTYLE STORY SLUGGED: DIRT KRT PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY BO RADER/WICHITA EAGLE (KRT3-April 9) As the ground begins to thaw this spring, many gardeners are starting to ready their soil for planting. Good growing soil takes patience and work. Alan Stevens of Kansas State University recommends adding organic materials and nitrogen to your soil. The best organic material is peat moss Stevens says. Other organic options: compost and manure. (jak72122) 1998 (COLOR) (Additional photo available on KRT/PressLink or upon request.)

BO RADER — KRT

Q. How many buds should I leave on my table grapes after pruning?

A. Usually 25-30 buds will produce a full crop. After fruit set, thin the fruit to one cluster per shoot. This will ensure that you get large clusters and berries.

Q. I heard on the news that Valley Fever has been discovered in our area. What is Valley Fever and how worried should I be about this?

A. Valley Fever is a disease caused by a "soil dwelling fungus." When the soil is disturbed and the spores of this fungus become airborne they can be inhaled where they lodge in the lungs of humans and certain animals, especially dogs. The fungus causes flu and pneumonia-like symptoms. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that 60 percent of those exposed don't fall ill, but in severe cases the fungus spores can break off and enter the bloodstream causing skin abscesses and brain inflammation. They estimate that 160 people are killed by the disease each year.

It was once believed that the fungus was only found in semi-arid parts of the Southwest, but researchers have now found that it is present in our region of Eastern Washington. The CDC indicates that the disease is not contagious and there is no vaccine to prevent against the disease. Valley Fever can be treated with antifungal medications, especially if an infected person is at a high risk of developing severe forms of the disease. High risk groups include blacks, Asians, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems.

Because the spores are airborne, the CDC indicates that it is very difficult to avoid exposure to the disease, but individuals who live in areas where the disease is found in the soil should try to avoid dusty environments. They also recommend that people at high risk wear a N95 mask when in a dusty environment and avoid activities that involve close contact to dust including yard work, gardening and digging. Use air quality improvement measures indoors such as HEPA filters and clean skin injuries well with soap and water, especially those exposed to soil or dust.

The CDC wants health care providers to be aware of the potential of Valley Fever in our area because it has symptoms similar to other respiratory illnesses. Increased awareness could help avoid missed diagnoses.

More information about the disease can be found at www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/ coccidioidomycosis.

-- Questions should be called in to the WSU Extension offices in Kennewick at 735-3551 or Pasco at 545-3511.

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