Valley Fever cases are on the rise, the fungal infection took the lives of nine people in Kern county last year.

Officials urge the importance of knowing the symptoms and being aware of the resources available.

“If there’s a lot of dust around, you want to stay indoors,” said Doctor Augustin Muñoz, pulmonary specialist.

The illness is caused by a fungus found in the soil and dirt. In California, the fungus is most common in the Central Valley due to its dry, hot climate. 

Doctor Muñoz says the fungus is so tiny that it often gets swept into the air.

“You breathe it in, it’ll land on your lung and cause pneumonia,” said Muñoz.

Often times Valley Fever can be mistaken for the flu due to its symptom resemblance.

“They can have fever, the can have a cough. Some people can have a rash, some people might have what they call the bumps, it’s very non-specific,” said Muñoz.

But, sometimes the infection can be severe.

 “I’ve have people that have gotten so bad that they go into sepsis, they go into shock and die  within just two days. I’ve had people die within five days,” said Muñoz.

Doctor Muñoz says this doesn’t happen often. He says this is only something to worry about if you have a poor immune system.

The Kern county health initiative held a forum today stressing awareness on the disease.

“In the rural areas, we found a lot of people that wanted to know more about Valley Fever because it’s so common in those areas to hear about it, but there’s no resources,” said Marisol Guillen, outreach specialist for Community Health Initiative.

Over 80 people from the community attended the forum. Assemblyman Rudy Salas and Senator Jean Fuller were also present. 

“This is a very terrible disease when you go through it personally and we need to beat this disease because it’s harming our area, our constitutes, our friends and our family members.” said Fuller.

They are currently working together to help fight the disease.

“The more we can document these cases, the more resources we can bring to combat Valley Fever,” said Salas.