BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Valley fever is here to stay and you should be cautious of it County Public Health said.

Valley fever is no stranger to people in our county but County Public Health warns you just because you grew up here doesn’t mean you have immunity.

The latest valley fever data shows an increase in cases.

“We are all susceptible to getting valley fever whether or not we were raised here in Kern County,” Brynn Carrigan with Kern County Public Health said.

Before the COVID pandemic, valley fever was at an all time high in Kern County. There were about 3,500 cases in 2019 but in 2020 the cases dropped by 500.

“I think the wearing of a mask during COVID, staying indoors and not being out sort of generically and probably decreased the cases,” Medical Director Royce Johnson with the Kern Medical Valley Fever Institute said.

Last year the number of cases rose. There were 3,045 infections and of those 33 people have died.

Valley Fever also referred to as Cocci, is caused by a fungus that lives in dirt. People get infected by breathing in the fungus’ spores.

“Most of the spores you inhale come from undisturbed soil,” Johnson said. “So most likely not your backyard or farm plot that’s been plowed.”

The spores are extremely small and they can move long distances

“Cocci can fly 75 miles so you don’t have to be near the source to catch it,” Johnson said. “In fact sea otters catch Cocci and there’s no Cocci in the Pacific Ocean.”

In 2021 the most cases came from the Valley Central and Mountain regions.

“Valley Fever spores are very small. While cloth face coverings, surgical masks and dust masks can help protect against a larger particulate matter from dust and dirt those types of masks are less likely to protect you against valley fever spores,” Kim Hernandez the lead epidemiologist at Kern County Public Health said.

Public Health announced their new digital dashboard for valley fever. You can find the new dashboard, statistics and safety recommendations through this link.