For the first time since May, San Luis Obispo County (SLO) health officials have reported a death due to the fungal infection, Valley Fever, or coccidioidomycosis, making it the sixth of the year.

Coccidioides immitis arthroconidia Image/CDC
Coccidioides immitis arthroconidia

According to local media, tThe latest person to die of the disease was a man who lived south of the Cuesta Grade. He died in late November.

There have been more than 200 cases of valley fever in SLO County thus far this year.

The County of San Luis Obispo Public Health Department reminds residents to be aware of the risk of Valley Fever in this region so they can take precautions to limit their risk of the disease. Residents who experience flu-like symptoms that do not improve after several weeks are urged to see their doctor and ask to be tested for Valley Fever if they believe they have been exposed to the disease.

Related: California reports an increase in Valley fever this year

“With Valley Fever, knowledge is power,” said Dr. Penny Borenstein, Health Officer of the County of San Luis Obispo. “Research shows that when people are aware of Valley Fever, they are more likely to be diagnosed earlier and receive treatment if they need it. Especially after this year’s wet weather, we want to remind residents and clinicians to think Valley Fever.”

More than 60 percent of people who become infected with Valley Fever do not experience any symptoms and do not need treatment. Around 30-40 percent of people develop sudden flu-like symptoms. Most of these people get well on their own within weeks. A small percentage—between one and five percent—will experience a much more serious form of the disease in which the infection spreads throughout the body. People who experience this serious form of Valley Fever are at risk of dying from complications of the disease and may need to take medication for the rest of their lives.

Some people are more at risk for this serious form of the disease, including people with compromised immune systems (including people with HIV/AIDS, people currently on chemotherapy, women who are pregnant, and others) and people of African and Asian-Pacific descent.

To reduce the risk of Valley Fever:

  • Limit your exposure to dust and airborne dirt. Try to avoid areas with a lot of dust, especially on windy days. If you need to spend time in a dusty area—such as on a construction site—wear an appropriate mask and dampen the soil to prevent it from drifting into the air. During dust storms, stay inside and close your windows.
  • Tell your doctor. If you experience flu-like symptoms for more than several weeks and suspect you have been exposed to Valley Fever, tell your doctor and ask to be tested for Valley Fever.