When she was just 6, Emily Gorospe became very tired and sick. The spunky girl, now 8, developed a fever that wouldn’t go away, and red blotches appeared across her body.
“She’s got so much energy usually,” says Emily’s mother, Valerie Gorospe. “Just walking from one part of the house … she was drained.” The little girl was also very pale. “She just didn’t look like herself,” Valerie recalls.
Emily, who lives in the Central Valley town of Delano, was eventually diagnosed with valley fever, also known as coccidioidomycosis. She’s one of an estimated 150,000 people nationwide who get the fungal disease every year. There is no cure and no vaccine.
Valley fever is well known in the Central Valley and other areas of California and Arizona. Tiny fungal spores live in the soil throughout much of this arid region. When the spores are disturbed, they can be inhaled into the lungs.
James McCarty, the medical director of infectious diseases at Children’s Hospital Central California, says most people feel nothing, or experience symptoms similar to the flu. Common symptoms include fever, night sweats, weight loss, chest pain, cough and sometimes skin rashes.
Valley fever can be a very serious disease for some people, McCarty says. It can spread from the lungs to other parts of the body, like the central nervous system, bones or skin. It can be life-altering or even fatal. Continue reading