Last Updated: Feb 10, 2023

Health officials are worried that climate change is leading to a surge in valley fever which is a fungal infection that is commonly found in the southwest. However, at the same time, they have assured that ‘The Last of Us’ scenario is not going to arrive any time soon. While the rising threat linked to fungal infection is a serious matter of concern. Experts have said that valley fever, which is also known as coccidioidomycosis, is triggered by the fungus coccidioides. They have stated that microorganisms that are present in the fungus can be found on the ground or deracinated by activities such as construction work, wind, or human activity. An infectious disease expert and professor from Florida International University, Dr. Aileen Marty has said that health scientists have been monitoring this disease for a long time. Dr. Marty has claimed that this fungus has been a component of the offensive biowarfare program agents and many countries around the world have considered it for such kind of use along with the United States. As per the report put together by experts, Coccidioides flourishes in warm and dry conditions, therefore, it is mostly found in the desert areas of the southwest. Nevertheless, varying temperatures and changing droughts might have led the fungus to move beyond its natural habitat. There are some scientists who have estimated that it might be seen as far north as the Canadian border toward the end of the century. Cough, fatigue, fever, headaches, shortness of breath, night sweats, muscle aches or joint pain, and a rash on the upper body or legs are some symptoms of valley fever. Experts have said that these symptoms usually start within three weeks of exposure to the fungus. Experts have advised that people who live in or have traveled to the Southwest should consult their healthcare providers if they suffer from these symptoms.

Experts have said that people can be diagnosed with valley fever after inhaling spores of coccidioides from the dust. It is considered that it is quite prevalent in the Southwest and many people infected with the disease experience mild symptoms or nothing at all. While some people might suffer from a severe illness after contracting the fungal infection. The fungus can lead to serious respiratory issues and some patients can be diagnosed with a severe type of pneumonia as well. In some cases, the fungus spreads far beyond the lungs and reaches the brain and spinal cord. Once this occurs, the rate of death linked to this fungal infection shoots up by 40 percent. However, such cases are rare, but scientists have been trying to identify the cause behind why some individuals graduate to such a destructive type of disease while others do not. Dr. Aileen Marty has stated that this fungus, which is resilient to temperature changes and salt, has been seen in sea mammals as well. The fungus can transmit via air in a climate as hot and dry as San Joaquin Valley in California. As per the data, the fungus can be found on the skeleton of a dead animal that contracted the infection and while the wind blows, it will be present in the air for other people and animals to breathe in. Experts have revealed that the fungus can easily infect bats and later these bats act as a reservoir. Dr. Aileen Marty has predicted that it might be one of the key ways the fungus has been transmitting more recently.
Dr. Aileen Marty has said that it said it can be found spreading in many states of the United States but not all.

The highest prevalence of the fungus can be seen in dry and desert-like atmospheres where it can transmit more easily. A team of scientists has found that climate change is triggering the transmission of this specific fungus. Experts have claimed that in the ever-changing atmosphere, many fungi species have been impacted by increasing temperatures caused by climate change. They have said that these temperature variations can result in the better adaptation of these fungi to endure and these changes might even make them suitable for human hosts, therefore. As per the experts, increasing temperatures can expand their geographical range and eventually the risk of infection as well will rise. A study that has been published in the journal known as Nature of Sciences has shown that greater temperatures might trigger the faster evolution of some fungi that cause diseases. Experts who have been involved in this study have found that the rate of transfer of ‘jumping genes’ has been five times greater in Cryptococcus that are found in warmer temperatures. It allows the fungus to better acclimatize to stressors such as heat and shoots up its capacity to infect humans. The World Health Organization (WHO) has also said that Coccidioides, Cryptococcus, Candida auris, and Histoplasma are among the fungal viruses of the highest threat to people.