Legal Articles

July 6, 2013

Silent epidemic stalks the western U.S.

You probably have never heard of coccidioidomycosis, though a few people might recognize it by its more common name, valley fever. This disease, also known as cocci, is characterized by The New York Times as “an insidious airborne fungal disease in which microscopic spores in the soil take flight on the wind . . . to lodge in the moist habitat of the lungs.” In the worst of cases, it can even “spread to the bones, the skin, the eyes, or . . . the brain.”

20,000 people affected each year

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is the agency that coined the name “silent epidemic” and with good reason. Every year more people fall ill, its current average being 20,000 people annually. About 160 people can be expected to die from its symptoms with “thousands more facing years of disability and surgery.”

Cases vary in severity

Some of the cases have included an 8-year-old boy who developed a golf ball-size mass on his neck and whose trachea was narrowed to the size of a straw. Luckily, he was able to recover, though they were never able to determine where or how he contracted the infection. Mr. Joe Klorman, on the other hand, will likely never be rid of the disease and he now “travels four hours round trip three times a week so Dr. Johnson can inject a powerful antifungal drug into his spinal fluid.”

No cure in sight

Scientists are still at work on developing a cure or fungicide, but their efforts have been stalled by lack of funding.


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