Back in the 1950s, Terry Noland released the song “There Was a Fungus Among Us.” (You have to pronounce the “g” in “among” to get the true effect of this title). But, in many parts of California, it would be more accurate to say, “There IS a fungus among us.” It’s a fungus that’s making people sick, and forcing them to miss work.

The name of the fungus is coccidioides immitis. This fungus causes Valley Fever, a serious and potentially fatal respiratory disease that’s on the rise in our state. Those living and working in the Central Valley and Southern regions are most affected.

Coccidioides immitis lives in the top two-to-12 inches of soil. People breathe it in when soil is disturbed and releases into the air. This means farmers, construction workers, and others who dig up dirt for a living are among those most at risk of getting Valley Fever at work.

Despite how serious and widespread Valley Fever is, very few employers cover it in their Injury and Illness Prevention Program (IIPP).