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Valley Fever Cases Set To Break Record 2016 Levels

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

In this photo taken Monday, May 18, 2015, Gino Celli inspects wheat nearing harvest on his farm near Stockton, Calif.

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

The number of new Valley Fever cases in California is on path to make 2017 a record-breaking year.

The illness is caused by a fungus spore that grows in soil. When it becomes airborne because of wind or farming activities, people can get infected by breathing in the spores.

It's called Valley Fever because it was first identified in California's San Joaquin Valley.

Numbers released by the state Department of Public Health show a jump in reported cases of more than 33 percent so far this year over the same period last year.

While these are not yet confirmed cases, Dr. James Watt with Public Health said we're on track to beat 2016's record numbers.

"I think that's likely," Watt said. "We won't know for sure for a few of months, but we did want to make sure that people were aware that disease levels were up and that they could take steps to protect themselves from Valley Fever."

Those steps include remaining indoors on windy days and using recirculating air conditioning in vehicles.

The state says it's unknown why cases appear to be on the rise, but last year's heavy rains could have reactivated the spores in some areas.

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