Issue 125 – July 2022
Understanding and Managing Valley FeverBy Tim Karcz, Senior Risk Manager
With summer approaching, California JPIA members should be aware of their potential exposure to valley fever, a respiratory condition caused by a microscopic fungus known as Coccidioides immitis. This fungus lives in the top two to twelve inches of soil in many parts of the state, with the highest rates of exposure being in the Central Valley and the Central Coast. Workers may inhale fungal spores when contaminated soil is disturbed by digging, grading, vehicle operations on dirt roads, or high winds. Many people who are exposed do not develop symptoms. Others experience flu-like symptoms (fever, headaches, aches in the upper body and legs) that usually go away on their own after a few weeks. Workers experiencing symptoms lasting more than a week should seek medical attention.
Valley fever can be managed and prevented through a formal respiratory protection program, in conjunction with taking the following steps to reduce worker exposure in areas with high incidence rates:
- Minimize the area of soil disturbed.
- Use water, appropriate soil stabilizers, or re-vegetation to minimize airborne dust.
- Stabilize all spoils piles by tarping or other methods.
- Clean tools, equipment, and vehicles before transporting offsite.
- Provide air-conditioned cabs for vehicles that generate heavy dust and ensure workers keep windows and vents closed.
- Suspend work during heavy winds.
- If workers’ clothing is likely to be heavily contaminated with dust, provide coveralls, changing rooms, and showers where possible.
Encourage workers to report valley fever symptoms promptly to a supervisor and to follow agency procedures for reporting a work-related injury.
The California JPIA’s Respiratory Protection Training program offers information on valley fever, available at https://www.cjpia.org/risk-management/training. Additional resources can be found from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/coccidioidomycosis/.
For more information, contact your regional risk manager.< Back to Full Issue Print Article