Valley Fever: You need to be aware

Now I know that for the last little bit in our part of the sport of drag racing there has been a lot of finger pointing and this guy said this and that lady said that, and at that point in time it all seem relevant. Then life comes in and bitch-slaps everybody in the room and reality changes to something that really matters and is serious.

About a month ago I got a call from the Jeff Burk, the guy who is the captain of this ship, and he asked me to find out about something he heard was going around the Bakersfield area called “Valley Fever”.  

My first thought was it was the name of a Funny Car back in the day -- I believed that Rance McDaniel drove. This was later confirmed by Dale Pulde, who said the same thing.  Burk stated he thought it was some sort of ailment that was going around the Bakersfield area.

So, with my orders in hand, I proceed to start to look up what the hell Valley Fever is exactly.  My, did I get my eyes opened!

Coccidiodomycosis (or Cocci) Valley Fever is an airborne fungus.  It comes from disturbed agricultural land in the southwest desert region of the U.S. and Mexico. It is spread by wind or by turning up the land for agriculture. The spores are then inhaled and can become imbedded in the lungs. This is where the interesting thing starts to happen. 

Dr. Royce Johnson, Vice–Chair and Professor of Medicine at UCLA-Kern Department of Medicine, who is one of the leading authorities on Valley Fever, states that sixty percent of those who get infected with “Valley Fever “ never show any symptoms of this disease.

Of the forty percent who do show signs of it, it can be as benign as a cough or a cold, and may be slightly more severe as pneumonia.  It will run its course and just like the cold, flu or pneumonia, go back into hibernation in a sense.

Of the forty percent one in ten cases are deemed serious.  This is where the disease manifests in the lungs and or it can disseminate from the lungs to major extremities, and more seriously to the brain.  If this occurs it can cause death, as it did for a 12-year-old Oildale, California, (just outside of Bakersfield) boy this January. 

Valley Fever is prevalent in the San Joaquin Valley, the Phoenix and Tucson areas and the area around El Paso. Peak periods for infection are November-February and can affect animals as well as humans.

Let me stress that Valley Fever is not a contagious disease and second infections are rare. 

In the years from 2003 to 2008 there were an average of 300 cases of Valley Fever that were diagnosed in Bakersfield.  In 2009 there were 451 cases and in 2010 it doubled to over 945 cases diagnosed.  This is alarming in a sense; however in 1992-1993 the yearly average was over 3,000 cases.

So, why am I writing about this in the Getting Nostalgic column? Because recently there have been many cases of people who have raced at the CHRR at Bakersfield coming down with Valley Fever. Most notable are Dale Pulde, Jack Harris and a couple of his crew people, and one of Tom Ridings’ crew.