Fungus among us… Valley fever

UNHS Public Health

Valley fever is a fungus spore that is in the soil and thrives in the arid desert soils of the southwestern region of the United States.

  The fungus spores are disturbed on windy days and  during construction or farming activities. People become infected when they inhale spores that are airborne. Valley fever may also be present, during activities at fair grounds, squaw dances and rodeos. Usually, valley fever is mild and resolves on its own. In severe cases you may need to see a provider to get tested and have medication prescribed.

  Many people who are exposed to the fungus never have symptoms, but when symptoms are present valley fever may resemble the flu or pneumonia, with coughing, weight loss, difficult breathing, chest pain and a more distinct rash and/or skin lesions. Some people infected by valley fever get a tender, bumpy red rash on the lower legs. Symptoms will arise 1-3 weeks following exposure.

  Valley fever is not contagious, it cannot be spread from infected person to person or animal to person. Who is most at risk?  People over 60 years of age, people with a weakened immune system and pregnant women. It is important to be conscious of valley fever, because there is no cure. It is currently not available.

  Hantavirus is a virus carried by rodents, and can infect humans through their droppings. This disease is rare and symptoms are much like those of influenza infection, followed by rapid onset of difficulty in breathing. The mouse species that carries this virus is the Deer mouse. The virus is found in the droppings, urine, and saliva of rodents. Humans are infected when they inhale dust that contains dried, contaminated rodent urine or feces.

  Infection may also occur when dried contaminated rodent feces or urine become airborne and are disturbed and directly introduced into broken skin or into the eyes, nose, or mouth. Rodent bites may also transmit the infection to humans.

  What are the signs and symptoms of Hantavirus infections? Early symptoms include fatigue, fever, and muscle aches, especially in the large muscle groups – thighs, hips, back and shoulders. There may also be headaches, dizziness, and chills. 4-10 days after the first phase of illness, a sick person will experience coughing and shortness of breath as the lungs fill with fluid? Who is most at risk? Anyone who comes in contact with rodents carrying Hantavirus is at risk for developing HPS. Any activity that puts you in contact with rodent droppings, urine, saliva, or nesting materials can put you at risk of infection.

  Activities including: Opening and cleaning previously unused buildings, housecleaning activities, being around abandoned vehicles, camping,  hiking and pinion picking. HPS has a high death rate, and has been fatal in over one third of cases reported. How do you properly clean up after rodents? Trap all live rodents, and seal entryways so no more can get in. After a week of trapping, if no more rodents are captured, then enough time has passed that the urine/droppings or nesting material is no longer infectious. When cleaning: wear gloves to clean urine/droppings and soak the droppings with bleach before picking up with paper towel. Clean and disinfect the whole area using gloves, goggles, protective clothing, and a respirator. Air out the area for 30 minutes. Make a solution of 1 part bleach and 9 parts water. Be sure to use the solution as soon as it is made; do not let it set for a day or more. Spray the area where mice urine and droppings are found. Wait 5 minutes. 

For more information, please visit: Centers for Disease Control & Prevention


Navajo Epidemiology Center

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