An Incurable Disease Is On The Rise In California, And Scientists Say Climate Change Could Cause It To Spread To Much Of The Wes

For days Alyssa Gonzalez was bedridden with a fever, a sore throat, loss of appetite, shortness of breath, and a rash all over her body.

The 18-year-old went to the emergency room twice, but doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong.

Eventually, Gonzalez felt good enough to work, but while taking a customer’s order at a Starbucks one morning this July, the California teen lost her eyesight. She stumbled to the back of the cafe, running into things along the way, and sat down until she could see again.

“It was like I was blind,” Gonzalez recalled. “It was awful.”

That afternoon, she and her mom went to the emergency room for the third time in two weeks. This time doctors figured out the real culprit: valley fever, a fungal disease that infects an estimated 150,000 people in the US each year and has been on the rise in California.

Valley fever, also called coccidioidomycosis, is caused by a fungus commonly found in hot and dry regions of the southwestern US, particularly California and Arizona. People can become infected by breathing in microscopic fungal spores made airborne by wind, construction, and other soil-disturbing activities.

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