A Spike in Valley Fever Could Be Impending as Temperatures Rise Due to Climate Change

extreme close up illustration of Coccidioides fungus

Valley fever is a fungal infection caused by the Coccidioides fungus, that may cause fatigue, headache, fever, cough, and possible long-term lung problems.

With HBO’S hit show, "The Last of Us," showing us the fictional dangers of a fungal pandemic, the rise of Valley fever cases has become even more disturbing. 

Valley fever is a fungal infection caused by the Coccidioides fungus that is commonly found in the soil in the Southwest region of the U.S. and Mexico and South and Central America, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Of those that breathe in the fungi spores, most don’t get sick, but those that do may experience fatigue, headache, fever, cough, and in extreme cases, they may develop long-term problems in their lungs, according to the CDC.

While this disease has remained mainly in Arizona, California, and Nevada, researchers project that as climate change increases temperatures in other regions, the fungus could exist outside the southwestern region. 

“We found that the endemic area to Valley fever, as well as the number of cases per year, will increase in response to climate change. As temperatures increase and precipitation patterns change, most of the western United States will meet climate thresholds necessary for Valley fever endemicity,” said the study.

According to the CDC, in 2019, there were a total of 20,003 reported Valley fever cases, a rise from 15,611 cases in 2018. 

The researchers predict that due to the increase in areas with a climate that allows for Valley fever endemicity and a rising population, we could see up to 50% more cases of the fungal disease according to their estimates for the years 2035, 2065, and 2095. 

Luckily for the world population, currently the Coccidioides fungus is not using humans as hosts to eat other humans such as the Cordyceps in "The Last of Us" universe … yet. 

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