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CDC Helps State Test For Valley Fever In Eastern Washington Soil

Wayne Clifford
Washington Department of Health
This week federal and state health officials are sampling a known site outside the Tri-Cities, Washington, for the fungus that causes Valley Fever. In the last five years, southeast Washington has reported nine new human cases.

The emergence of nine cases of a fungal infection known as Valley Fever in southeast Washington over the last five years has state and federal health officials concerned. This week, the state and the CDC are launching a $50,000 study.

Valley fever, also called coccidioidomycosis, is caused by microscopic fungus spores, dusted up from desert soil. It can act a lot like the flu causing some to develop serious lung or nervous system problems. People who often work outdoors in the dust are at greater risk of catching the disease.

Valley Fever is more common in California and the southwest, but now, Hover Park, outside the Tri-Cities, has repeatedly tested positive for it. The park is popular with ATV riders and four-wheelers.

Scientists are sampling it this week with full protective gear and respirators. The study spans from the Yakima Valley clear to Asotin, just across the Snake River from Idaho.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.