Saturday, December 9, 2023


Health threat for SW snowbirds—Valley fever is on the rise

Pat Schumacher thought he probably had cancer. In the spring of 2021, he was feeling tired and had a constant, unproductive cough. He felt sick enough that he left the group he was RVing with to get a scan at the VA hospital in Las Vegas—and was told there was a golf-ball-sized lump on a lung.

“It was 100 degrees there so I headed home to Portland, OR, to get a biopsy, ready for bad news,” he said, Instead, the biopsy showed he had Valley fever.

None of his fellow travelers had ever heard of it—but cases of Valley fever have gone up 400 percent from 1998-2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What Pat had in his lungs was a fungus, which came from breathing in tiny specs of infected soil while hiking during his winter in Arizona.

Pat Schumacher

It’s still a relatively rare disease—about 20,000 cases a year. “But those are the reported cases,” points out Pat. “How about the people who get it and don’t know?”

About 200 people die from Valley fever every year, reports the Center for Disease Control.

Valley fever is a fungus known as “coccidioidomycosis or ‘cocci,’” reports the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). “(It) can cause prolonged respiratory symptoms including cough, fever, chest pain, and fatigue or tiredness.” Joint pain and rashes are also symptoms.

Why the increase in cases? New research has spotlighted one possible explanation— increased dust storms due to climate change, says the American Lung Association. But paradoxically, Valley fever cases increase after heavy rains, just like the ones in the Southwest last winter. So, it is likely we will see a rapid increase in cases, especially this fall.

Here are nine things you need to know, especially if you or a loved one is headed to the Southwest this fall. (This information is from the CDPH website and other trusted websites like Mayo Clinic and the CDC.)

Nine things to know about Valley fever

  1. Mild cases of Valley fever usually resolve on their own. Some people never know they have it. It takes several weeks to start showing symptoms. In more severe cases, pneumonia can develop—and worse. Doctors treat the more severe infections with antifungal medication or even surgery.
  2. Ninety-seven percent of all cases come from exposure to soil in Arizona and California— although in recent years it has spread to Texas, Utah, New Mexico, Nevada and even Washington state.
  3. “Valley fever is an urgent health crisis because of climate change,” says UCLA Health clinical microbiologist Shaun Yang, PhD. New research by the University of California, Berkeley and CDPH shows that during drought, the fungus that causes Valley fever can become less active. However, when the rains return, the fungus can grow, leading to increases in infection. Cases of Valley fever in California have historically been lowest during years of drought and highest during years immediately after a drought.
  4. Valley fever shares many of the same symptoms with other respiratory diseases (including COVID-19). Valley fever symptoms can last a month or more, and laboratory tests are needed to know whether symptoms are caused by Valley fever or another illness. If a person tests negative for COVID-19 but continues to have respiratory symptoms that last more than a week, he should talk to a doctor and ask if the symptoms could be from Valley fever.
  5. Valley fever is not contagious.
  6. Animals can also get Valley fever.
  7. About 10 percent of people will develop serious or long-term problems in their lungs, according to In these rare cases, Valley fever can spread to other parts of the body and infect the brain, joints, bone, skin or other organs. This form of Valley fever can be very serious and even fatal.
  8. You can develop Valley fever any time of year, but you’re at higher risk of infection in early summer and late fall, when the soil is dry. Wind, construction work and even digging with a shovel can release dust and fungal spores into the air, where they can stay aloft for long periods of time.
  9. Obviously, most at risk are those who work—and play—outdoors. Other groups at higher risk of severe Valley fever, if they become infected, include people who are Black or Filipino, adults 60 years or older, pregnant women, and people with diabetes, cancer, or conditions that weaken the immune system.

Mitigating exposure to Valley fever

It can be difficult to prevent infection. Practical tips from the CDPH may help prevent Valley fever in areas with high rates:

  • When it is windy outside and the air is dusty, stay indoors and keep windows and doors closed.
  • Before digging, wet down soil and dirt to prevent stirring up dust into the air.
  • Consider wearing a properly fitted N95 mask if you must be in dusty air outdoors in these areas.

Schumacher is relieved he had a lesser case of Valley fever and, like most people afflicted, he has made a full recovery. But it was obvious doctors didn’t know what they were dealing with—a blood test could have been a speedier and less painful diagnostic tool.

He gets an X-ray every year and the mass has shrunk. It hasn’t stopped him from wintering in Arizona. He’s been told he is now probably immune to the disease.

Still, he will never forget how worried he was after that first scan—and those few heart-rending seconds on the phone with the hospital before he knew his test results.


Jan Steele
Jan Steele
Former newspaper editor Jan Steele started her career in third grade as a school correspondent for her local newspaper and has been writing for publication ever since, including a 30-year-stint at the Herald-News in Joliet, IL. She decided in fourth grade she wanted to hit the road as soon as she could—and retired eight years ago to RV full-time.



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Neal Davis (@guest_261083)
26 days ago

Thank you, Jan! Extremely timely information, given the early days of snowbird season; thanks again! I hope Yahoo!, etc., notice this article. It needs to be spread widely. 🙂

Last edited 26 days ago by Neal Davis
George (@guest_260933)
26 days ago

Nicely done!

Bill (@guest_260889)
26 days ago

Most individuals who get valley fever, a fungus caused by cocccidioidomycosis, have mild to symptoms that are not even noticeable. Those who have lived their lives here, or many years, in the southwest have already been exposed to it through dust in the wind so they are immune to it through antibodies.

Dan (@guest_260872)
26 days ago

Nice article, thank you. Being from East Texas I had never heard of valley fever. Sorry for the political crap that seems to always mess things up for the rest of us. Wow, so much hate.

Cancelproof (@guest_260875)
26 days ago
Reply to  Dan

I thought it was a good article too. I didn’t read any political speech in the comments though, just science and some questioning of science. So sad that people see politics everywhere in everything.

I reread every post before this reply and not one mention of politics in any until yours. Sorry you see politics in everything.

Split Shaft (@guest_260954)
26 days ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

The term “Climate Change” has become a political platform for some folks. Here in California, we have lived with valley fever for longer than I have been alive. And while drier or wetter climates might allow for its spread or increased infections, there are many other reasons as well. The most notable being the exposure to soil because it can be anywhere “agriculture,” dust from soils, heat, and moisture exist as in the California central valley.  And California’s cyclic dry and wet years.

Ray (@guest_260846)
27 days ago

Good article. This is a disease worth knowing about. I do chagrin however at the charges of climate change and crisis, as these are all-Important keywords constantly used for federal funding.

Bill (@guest_260813)
27 days ago

Thank you Jan and RV staff. This is one of the most important articles I’ve seen in years.

Drew (@guest_260772)
27 days ago

Thanks for making us aware!

Michael (@guest_260753)
27 days ago

I was lucky I guess. Had it in the 90’s and didn’t know it until I had chest Xray for accident and test confirmed it. Spot on lung finally went away. Sure wish people would stop the blaming of climate change. Climate change has been going on since the beginning of time.

Marie Beschen (@guest_260708)
27 days ago

Valley Fever is a real thing. Living in AZ, we are very aware of it and something we keep a watch on. Most doctors here know about it and know to test for it, but not elsewhere, and it is often misdiagnosed, so it’s something you have to alert your own doctor about (often thought to be lung cancer). Road or housing construction around you seems to be a real culprit to watch, so we try and stay away/inside when that happens around us. Glad you wrote about it, as most “snowbirds” are not aware of it, and need to be! 😉

Cancelproof (@guest_260748)
27 days ago
Reply to  Marie Beschen

Yes, it is a very real thing. I have a golf ball size mass show up in my left lung on my annual scans, 18 years later. I had no symptoms so it went too long without diagnosis and treatment which lasted for 6 months.

It is important to get the word out and hopefully the ridiculous and hyperbolic statement from the UCLA kook about cases on the rise and at CRISIS LEVEL “potentially due to climate change” can be discounted by smart readers.

Bill (@guest_260817)
27 days ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

Good response except for your ridiculous 2nd paragraph.

Bill Byerly (@guest_260830)
27 days ago
Reply to  Bill

I disagree with you, I think the whole comment was the correct one, IMHO.

Elliot (@guest_260939)
26 days ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

True! Climate change has been going on for 4 billion years and will not stop just because we humans, are here now!

David N (@guest_260677)
27 days ago

I caught valley fever in the 70’s while I was working in the oil fields in Bakersfield, Its not fun. But I am now 72 but I have scarring on my 1 lung.
Guess it was a light case.

Skip (@guest_260653)
27 days ago

Having lived there 92-97 I caught the valley fever. Doctors stated that I had most likely picked it up from all the construction just behind us with the expansion of the development. So on medication and xrays every 4 months for a year. It passed but surely don’t want it again.

Corrina T (@guest_260650)
27 days ago

Thanks for this excellent article Jan! I grew up and live in Las Vegas, NV, and am outside daily either running or walking. Valley Fever is always in the back of my mind. I know someone who had it, but most people living here don’t know what it is. I’m going to share your article with family and friends so that they can be aware of symptoms.

Christine (@guest_260582)
27 days ago

We wintered in Phoenix in 2021. We had been in the area a few weeks when our goldendoodle started showing less energy than usual. One morning, she only ate part of her breakfast and that was when we knew something was wrong. The vet drew blood which confirmed a diagnosis of Valley fever. Our dog has fully recovered after being on fluconizole. When we go back to the area this winter, our dog will once again need to be on the medication to prevent a recurrence.

John Irvin (@guest_260580)
27 days ago

Good info, thanks.

Cancelproof (@guest_260358)
28 days ago

Climate change huh? Sure it is.

Maybe, just maybe, given that the population of Phx has gone from 1,400,000 people in 1980 to 4,500,000 in 2023, that maybe caused an increase. A more than 300% increase in population.

C’mon man, has the population increase caused an increase in valley fever? No, probably not, it’s most likely the half of a degree increase in global temperature, or maybe, just maybe, we are able to diagnose this often undiagnosed disease better in 2023 than in 1980. You know, better scanning equipment and all. No, probably just climate change related.

Chicken Little fear mongering. “The sky is falling”.

Last edited 28 days ago by Cancelproof
John Irvin (@guest_260583)
27 days ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

Now tell me, you’re a scientist right?

Cancelproof (@guest_260738)
27 days ago
Reply to  John Irvin

Fauci is and what did that get us? Lies and more lies. We all waked around with useless masks covering our faces for 2 years because of nonscience science. That was brought to us by… wait for it…. Scientists.

Does one need to be a scientist to smell BS through an N95?

Science huh, if a Supreme Court Justice openly states SHE doesn’t know the difference between a man and a woman, should the Supremes have need for a consultation with a biologist before ruling on men playing in women’s sports?

Common sense brother, common sense. Something we lack a lot of in recent years it seems. Simply accepting what we are told and never question it got us the war in Iraq too.

Last edited 27 days ago by Cancelproof
Tom (@guest_260812)
27 days ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

get off your soapbox

Cancelproof (@guest_260873)
26 days ago
Reply to  Tom

Get the ring out of your nose, it interferes with mask performance.

Bill (@guest_260820)
27 days ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

Gosh! Such vitriol from cancelled.

Elliot (@guest_260947)
26 days ago
Reply to  Cancelproof


Tom (@guest_260839)
27 days ago
Reply to  John Irvin

No, but he has some T Shirt 🤔

Cancelproof (@guest_260859)
27 days ago
Reply to  Tom

I’ve always known that you and Bill and John Irvin were fans. I’m flattered, Fan Boys!!!

KellyR (@guest_260929)
26 days ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

Wow, Do I have to start looking again for re-education camps? Seriously, I totally DISLIKE! the phrase “Climate Change” it is a divisive political word, just to get people riled up, and raises my blood-pressure – something politician like to do, evidently. Instead of “climate change”, which was incorrect to state, It should have said, “Now that we are experiencing dryer seasons in the valley, ….. “, which could be proven as an undisputed fact using past weather condition on record, that would have been correct. .

Cancelproof (@guest_260937)
26 days ago
Reply to  KellyR

100% agree. Word choice is important. Climate is not weather. Planetary catastrophization is not helpful. It is divisive rhetoric used as a cudgel to cancel or silence descent.

On scientist or not earlier, I’m not a vet but I know the difference between a dog and a cat. I’m not an astrophysicist but I know what an eclipse is. I’m not an archeologist but I know what a T-Rex is. I dont need to be a meteorologist to know when it’s hot or wet or dry or cold.

✌️ friend. Done for the weekend now. Checking on camp vacancy to get reprogramming started.

Last edited 26 days ago by Cancelproof
Elliot (@guest_260944)
26 days ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

Living in AZ, I absolutely believe, that all of the construction stirring up heretofore undisturbed soils in the desert, over the last 20 years, has increased the likelihood of contracting valley fever.

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