Valley fever outbreak strikes solar power plant workers
May 1, 2013
Valley fever has struck 28 workers at two solar power construction sites in San Luis Obispo County. [LATimes]
Staff from the California Department of Public Health, investigators from the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health and San Luis Obispo County visited the Topaz Solar Farm and California Valley Solar Ranch near the Carrizo Plain two months ago, officials said.
Workers at the plants are scraping and clearing to make way for thousands of acres of solar panels. Valley fever is contracted by breathing in fungal spores released when desert soils are disturbed.
Most people who breathe in the spores develop no symptoms at all. Others, about 40 percent, develop flu-like symptoms including cough, congestion, fever, fatigue, body aches and headaches that can last a month or more. Valley Fever can lead to severe pneumonia, meningitis and even death.
The threat of acquiring the respiratory illness extends to residents living near the construction sites.
Cases of Valley Fever in San Luis Obispo County have more than doubled over the past few years from 87 reported cases in 2009 to 225 cases in 2011. California’s increase mirrors that, with reported cases growing 71 percent from 2001 to 2011.