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Mushroom that moves for miles in the air is infecting thousands of people in California

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There is a fungal disease that is beginning to cause some concern and is spreading mainly in the southwest, particularly in California. Precisely for this reason it was called San Joaquin Valley fever (a valley between San Francisco and Sacramento), or more simply valley fever or Californian fever, but scientifically it is known as coccidiomycosis.

It is an infection that is contracted by breathing in the spores of two species of fungi, Coccidioides immitis and Coccidioides posadasii. Given that these mushrooms live in the soil, it is in particular the agricultural workers who live or who find themselves working in this area of ​​California to show the symptoms of this disease to a greater extent, namely coughing, fatigue and high fever, symptoms that lead to many of them to be hospitalized.

The spores are found in the ground but boast a particularity thanks to which they can be moved even over long distances. They can be carried by the wind to travel even tens and tens of miles floating in the air. Once this disease was quite rare but now it is on the rise because it takes advantage of the lack of rainfall and in general the heat and dryness, more and more frequent situations in California.

In 2017 alone, for example, 4364 cases of valley fever were reported only in the United States and most of them in California. The cases, however, may be underestimated because we are faced with a disease that has various symptoms very similar to those of common disorders such as influenza or pneumonia. Moreover, not all those who contract these fungi, breathing in spores, get sick despite a blood test or even a cutaneous text can more or less easily confirm the diagnosis from valley fever.

Only in 1% of cases, the most serious ones, the infection can move from the lungs to other areas of the body such as the brain, joints, spine or skin. It becomes deadly in a few cases when it develops in meningitis and according to data from US CDCs on average about 200 people die each year from this disease or from complications that it can bring.

Luke Foster

I am a Mathematics major at Northern Illinois University and a part-time editor for The Pantagraph, along with this publication. It's my pleasure to help contribute news stories to this site whenever I see something interesting, not just to help educate others but also to learn more about different areas of research myself.

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