Valley Fever

A dust-borne fungus is causing an epidemic of misery and rising mortality in central California

LORI CROWN THOUGHT she was doing the right thing last year when she moved to a dryer climate in Bakersfield, California, after being plagued by asthma attacks during her six years in Hawaii. A few months later, Crown, 35, was suffering from severe headaches, a prolonged fever of 102 degreesF, swollen feet and painful bumps on her hands and legs. The diagnosis: "valley fever," or coccidioidomycosis, a dust-borne disease caused by the microscopic spores of a fungus, Coccidioides immitis.

As a newcomer to the San Joaquin Valley, Crown was stunned to learn that the same rich topsoil that makes the region...

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