Haboob Bakersfield

A fast-moving dust storm, called a haboob, swept across Bakersfield on Sept. 28, a peak season for valley fever infections, which are caused by fungal spores in the air. Doctors have noticed a spike in cases since September and have said Kern County is experiencing another epidemic.

Courtesy of KABC-TV in Los Angeles

The peak season for valley fever has always been the fall months before a significant rain fall. As a retired microbiologist from the Kern County Health Department, and having done significant testing for valley fever, I can tell you September and October can see 200 to 400 cases a week.

Kern County is an endemic area for this pulmonary fungus. This fungal disease seems be more prevalent in darker races, especially in Filipinos, blacks and Hispanics. It is also more prevalent in those who have had or are susceptible to tuberculosis, because their immune systems are compromised.

In advanced cases this disease leads to rash and superlative lesions over the entire torso and this fungus is in its yeast phase. Spores in the soil when disturbed by man or wind enter the repertory system by inhalation. Over a period of months, cough, night sweats, fatigue and achiness can appear.

Three basic tests are performed in the lab. Early diagnostic tests for valley fever, or coccidiomycosis, are the Precipitin and Agar gel diffusion. Another is the Complement Fixation Test, an antigen-antibody test requiring two days for results. Multiple fixation tests must be performed to determine full recovery.

Eugene White, Bakersfield