Valley Fever Fungus Found In Washington State

May 05, 2014

A fungus that can launch a fatal illness, which has mainly been confined to areas of the Southwest, has been found for the first time in the northwestern U.S.

The fungus, which sometimes launches the potentially lethal illness Valley Fever, has been identified in the soil of Washington state. 

That has public health officials and an expert from Washington State University thinking the organism may have quietly spread to the northwest. 

Valley Fever occurs when the soil-dwelling fungus releases invisible spores that get inhaled and lodged in the lungs of humans and some animals, like dogs. Most people who are exposed do not get ill.

But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say 160 people die from Valley Fever every year.

Soil samples taken from an area of Washington where three unrelated cases were diagnosed between 2010 and 2011 tested positive for the fungus, proving it can survive there. 

None of the three victims had traveled to the Southwest before falling ill, leading officials to believe they acquired the disease in eastern Washington.