The earthquakes that started July 4, 2019 in Kern County shook residents, destroyed property, and caused a lot of the problems expected by earthquakes. They also may have spread the spores that will add to a new wave of Valley Fever infections within the current epidemic.
The precedence for an earthquake borne-epidemic was proven in the aftermath of California’s 1994 Northridge Earthquake in Ventura County.
In the Journal of the American Medical Association, a 1997 review of the epidemiology after the Northridge quake showed a spike in Valley Fever case reporting two weeks later and discussed risk factors such as the generation of airborne dust that may be mixed with infectious spores.
Both the location and timing of cases strongly suggest that the coccidioidomycosis outbreak in Ventura County was caused when arthrospores were spread in dust clouds generated by the earthquake. This is the first report of a coccidioidomycosis outbreak following an earthquake. Public and physician awareness, especially in endemic areas following similar dust cloud-generating events, may result in prevention and early recognition of acute coccidioidomycosis.
Will an outbreak occur from the July 4th earthquakes in Kern County, a known hyperendemic area to Valley Fever? It may depend on how much soil was disturbed by the quakes in ways that would specifically aerosolize the spores. But would that outbreak be distinguishable from the ongoing Valley Fever epidemic that has already been in progress? Will there be the public and physician awareness that the 1997 JAMA report hoped for?
Time will tell.
Schneider E, Hajjeh RA, Spiegel RA, Jibson RW, Harp EL, Marshall GA, Gunn RA, McNeil MM, Pinner RW, Baron RC, Burger RC, Hutwagner LC, Crump C, Kaufman L, Reef SE, Feldman GM, Pappagianis D, Werner SB. JAMA. 1997 Mar 19;277(11):904-8. A coccidioidomycosis outbreak following the Northridge, Calif, earthquake.