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How COVID-19 Has Complicated The Response To Valley Fever – Virus Update For Mar. 12

The Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical
Doctors Arash Heidari, Royce Johnson, Augustine Munoz and Rasha Kuran all physicians and researchers at the Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical.


Even though COVID-19 has been the dominant public health threat for a year, first with a summer surge, then a winter surge, and now with the rollout of much-anticipated vaccines, other public health problems haven’t just disappeared.

One long-standing health concern in the San Joaquin Valley is valley fever, a fungal disease that sickens thousands each year here and throughout the desert southwest. Even though the disease is caused by inhaling the spores of a fungus and it’s not transmissible from person to person, valley fever bears many parallels to COVID-19, including its varied symptoms, which can confound doctors and are commonly misdiagnosed for other respiratory ailments.


Credit Lauren Young
Lauren Young is a science reporter and digital producer with Science Friday.

Are patients who’ve suffered severe valley fever especially at risk of contracting COVID-19? And what happens to those who contract both? This week’s COVID-19 update examines how the pandemic has complicated the public health response to valley fever, featuring an interview with Science Friday science reporter and digital producer Lauren Young as well as excerpts of her conversations with doctors Arash Heidari and Rasha Kuran of the Valley Fever Institute at Kern Medical, UC Merced biology professor Katrina Hoyer, and valley fever patient Anna Antonowich.

Meanwhile, here’s a snapshot for Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced, and Tulare Counties (note that some numbers may have changed between the interview and publication):


As of March 11:

As of 1 week previous, March 4:

As of 4 weeks previous, Feb. 11:

You can always find up-to-date information for your county here.

Kerry Klein is an award-winning reporter whose coverage of public health, air pollution, drinking water access and wildfires in the San Joaquin Valley has been featured on NPR, KQED, Science Friday and Kaiser Health News. Her work has earned numerous regional Edward R. Murrow and Golden Mike Awards and has been recognized by the Association of Health Care Journalists and Society of Environmental Journalists. Her podcast Escape From Mammoth Pool was named a podcast “listeners couldn’t get enough of in 2021” by the radio aggregator NPR One.
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