Valley Fever Outbreak Traced to Mexico

Coccidioidomycosis (Valley Fever) has been considered endemic in Tijuana, Mexico and reported in Tecate and Hermosillo

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An outbreak of the Coccidioidomycosis fungal disease, known as Valley Fever, has been traced to a renovation project in Tijuana, Mexico, reported the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on April 12, 2019. 

This Valley Fever outbreak was originally confirmed by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene(NYCDHMH) on August 8, 2018. 

The NYCDHMH has notified the CDC about high school students hospitalized for pneumonia of unknown etiology, who had recently returned from community service trips constructing houses near Tijuana, in Baja California, Mexico. 

By October 15, 2018, a total of 8 cases of Valley Fever had been reported in Kansas, Maryland, Michigan, and New York in persons who traveled on multiple service trips to Tijuana during June–July 2018. 

The CDC said the severity of illness and delays in accurate diagnosis observed in this outbreak underscore the importance of obtaining a travel history and considering coccidioidomycosis in persons with respiratory symptoms, with or without rash, who have returned from northern Mexico or areas of the United States, where the disease is endemic. 

And, organizers of service or mission trips involving soil-disturbing activities in these areas should educate participants about the risk for Valley Fever. 

Approximately 40 percent of persons develop influenza-like symptoms 1–3 weeks after exposure. Approximately 5‒10 percent of persons develop serious pulmonary problems. 

Valley Fever has been considered endemic in Tijuana, and to a lesser extent, outbreaks have been reported in the Mexican cities of Tecate and Hermosillo. 

Anyone who lives in or travels to Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, or parts of Mexico or Central or South America can get Valley Fever. 

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People who’ve had Valley Fever are usually protected from getting it again, says the CDC. 

The fungus that causes Valley fever, Coccidioides, can’t spread from the lungs between people or between people and animals. 

However, in extremely rare instances, a wound infection with Coccidioides can spread Valley fever to someone else. 

Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent Valley fever, but scientists have been trying to make one since the 1960s. A vaccine could make the body’s immune system think that it’s already had Valley fever, which would likely prevent a person from being able to get the infection. 

In February 2017, investigators at the University of Arizona (UA) created delta-cps1, a preventive vaccine candidate for Valley Fever. This is a mutant strain of Valley Fever fungus that is missing a large gene.   

Delta-cps1 did not cause disease in several strains of mice. Delta-cps1 dies quickly, but not before it causes a very strong immune response in mice, said these UA researchers. Delta-cps1 has not entered human clinical study. 

The corresponding author of the CDC study: Mitsuru Toda, [email protected].