A fungus that causes the potentially fatal illness known as valley fever has been found in southeastern Washington state, and health officials are trying to determine if it has spread to Oregon.
Three cases of valley fever were diagnosed in Washington state from 2010-11 in Benton, Franklin and Walla Walla counties in Washington state. Soil samples taken there recently tested positive for the fungus, or Coccidioides, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While all three patients survived, it prompted Emilio DeBess, Oregon’s state public health veterinarian, to collect 17 additional samples primarily south of the state line between Pendleton and Milton-Freewater. Those were also sent to the CDC for testing.
In Oregon, public health officials are taking soil samples from Umatilla County to test for the fungus, which is normally found in the southwest United States and parts of Mexico, Central America and South America.
There are no confirmed cases of valley fever originating from Oregon, DeBess said, but the expectation is they will eventually find the Coccidioides fungus with a little more digging.
“It’s the same weather, the same farmland and pretty much the same area,” DeBess said. “I think we’ll get some leads as soon as we start getting a little more aggressive about requesting information.”
Read more on the Capital Press website.