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Health Officials Say Risk Of Valley Fever Following Fire And Flooding Is Low

Some residents are concerned about Valley Fever in the aftermath of the Thomas Fire and flooding. But the good news from the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department is that the risk of infection is low.

Valley Fever is caused by a fungus that exists in two forms.  It grows as a mold inches beneath desert soil, and it also exists as a spore in the air.

County Health Officer Dr. Charity Dean says related to the dust, she’s most concerned about irritation to the lungs and eyes. People who are concerned should wear an N-95 mask.

Many people who inhale the fungus spores never develop symptoms.  Most cases are mild and can be resolved without treatment.  Severe cases can be successfully treated with anti-fungal therapy.

Since the fire began in early December, the health department says there is one confirmed case in South Santa Barbara County and 18 in North Santa Barbara County. However, the fungus is highly endemic in other areas including San Luis Obispo County.