HomeHealthClimate change releasing hideous disease-causing fungus from California soil

Climate change releasing hideous disease-causing fungus from California soil

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Between fires, floods and record-breaking heatwaves, the summer of 2022 has certainly made the danger of climate change to human health exponentially clearer.

But while natural disasters like that are overt, a number of other public health-related side effects of climate change are far less visible, but just as worrisome. Take, for example, a disease-causing fungus that thrives in drought-stricken California soil and then soars into the air.

According to the guardthe fungus – which, yes, can infect anyone who inhales it – is called coccidioides, and the disease it causes is popularly known as Valley Fever. It can be a brutal, often debilitating condition that can lead to symptoms ranging from crushing headaches to sinus infections. And perhaps most disturbingly, once contracted, the disease can even turn into meningitis.

“It took everything — my health,” Rob Purdie, a former financial planner and father of two whose life was turned upside down by Valley Fever-induced meningitis, told the newspaper. Guardian. “It had a huge impact on my family. We lost everything, all our financial security, all our pensions.”

coccidioides requires harsh, dry conditions to survive. That means it thrived amid the many near-waterless years in the state. and if coccidioides has spread in California’s Central Valley, and cases of Valley Fever have been reported.

“There’s a lot more valley fever now. I can just see that at work,” Dr. Royce Johnson, an infectious disease expert in the region, at the Guardian. “We think most of it has to do with climate and weather.”

“Much of the western US is already very dry,” added Morgan Gorris, an Earth systems scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “Looking at the climate change projections, the western half of the US is expected to remain quite dry and that will continue to support valley fever.”

Importantly, if the soil is not disturbed, it will not necessarily release the disease into the airways. But any disturbance, be it a large-scale archaeological dig or a burrowing animal, will release the fungus from the soil into the air. The disease-causing spores can then travel about 75 miles or so from where they originally hatched.

“Someone who lives in Long Beach and drives to the Bay Area and has their window open on the 5 can get Valley Fever,” Johnson told the paper. “If you do an archaeological dig in the foothills west of [Bakersfield] you can… you’re actually on top of it.”

Scientists recently warned that the next global pandemic could be mold, so the growing prevalence of a dangerous, debilitating, mold-borne disease is alarming. The good news? It sounds like any progress against climate change would also be progress against new fungal threats.

“Reducing climate change could reduce Valley Fever’s health impacts,” Gorris told the Guardian. “It’s important to understand that it’s not all doom and gloom.”

READ MORE: ‘It took everything’: the disease that can be contracted by breathing California air [The Guardian]

More about bad mold among us: Next Pandemic Could Be Caused By Horrible Fungi, Scientists Warn

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