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Drought May Be Slowing Valley Fever Outbreak

California health experts are surprised that the incidence of Valley Fever has gone down during the drought. The fungal infection is commonly spread in arid, dusty conditions. But, even though the state is drier, the number of cases continues to drop.

Valley Fever peaked in 2011 with more than 5,000 cases in California. Last year there were fewer than half that.

Dr. James Watt is the Chief of the Division of Communicable Diseases for the California Department of Public Health.

"This disease is caused by a fungus that lives in the soil," he says. "When things are dry that makes it harder for that fungus grow and it goes into a dormant state. We think that after a dry spell, when there's some rainfall the fungus wakes up and starts to multiply and can cause more disease."

If rain returns, Watt expects the number of cases to rise, but more research is necessary.

Valley Fever generally causes flu-like symptoms. However, it can lead to serious infections and even cause death.

Most of the state's cases have been reported in the southern half of the Central Valley.