Kern County has one of the highest rates of people infected with Valley Fever in the nation.
Valley fever is an infection caused by a fungus that lives in the soil. People catch the infection when they breath in the dust from the infected soil. It can cause severe illness and spread to other parts of the body.
The Centers for Disease Control says the U.S.. sees just 10,000 cases each year, with our county public health department reporting nearly 3000 in 2017.
It’s a big problem here, so to be able to understand the disease better, the valley fever institute at Kern medical has launched a new research study on the disease.
“The disease, overall, across the southwest and probably in the northern part of Mexico is under diagnosed all because people don’t think of it, they don’t order the test, they don’t get the follow up, they don’t present,” said Dr. Royce Johnson, medical director at Valley Fever Institute.
Doctor Johnson says that is mostly due to the fact that 60 percent of people who are exposed to valley fever never get sick.
“Of the 40% that get sick only 10% are diagnosed,” said Johnson.
To better understand the disease, the valley fever institute has launched a new research study. It will observe patients who have been diagnosed with valley fever or pneumonia.
“Many people that have pneumonia, really have valley fever pneumonia and not some other type that responds to an antibiotic,” said Johnson.
Individuals who are at least 14 years old and have been diagnosed with pneumonia and or valley fever within the last 14 days are eligible for the study.
“They’ll need to have blood drawn and we have to review their x-rays, and data about their history,” said Johnson. “They’ll eventually have to have a physical done by one of us.”
Those who end up having valley fever will be followed for 24 months. If the individual completes the entire trial, they will receive up to $600.
“Knowledge is power and it may allow us to better inform the way we evaluate and treat patients going further beyond the study in the future,” said Johnson.
Qualifying individuals who want to enroll call 661-706-6748.