A Valley Fever Vaccine Will Finally Work — for Dogs


In addition, because valley fever is a regional disease, a physician needs knowledge of the region to identify its existence. Someone who works in New York City probably wouldn’t consider it the way a doctor in Las Vegas would. Digging into the lack of recognition, only 26 states (plus Washington, DC) rank it as something that public health authorities need to report. And even though California is one of the most affected states, second only to Arizona, California’s wealthy tech workers rarely develop the disease. Its main victims are people who are already immunocompromised or working outdoors or exposed to heat, wind, dusty conditions: not only farm workers, but contractors, road crews, and excavators and homebuilder that sets up subdivisions.

Others are at risk: military personnel assigned to bases in the southwest and winter vacationers from the cold northern states, who have all returned to areas where doctors are unlikely to recognize the disease. As I wrote with Scientific American this summer, in 2018, CDC epidemiologists conducting a national sweep for the disease found cases in 14 states which are often located along the Canadian border — areas so cold that infections would not have occurred there. After revealing the patients ’past travels, investigators learned that the individuals had been infected somewhere in the south and brought the fungus home.

“If we get a vaccine, it’s definitely people living in the endemic area where to start, people who are immunocompromised,” Thompson said. “But it can also be a major travel remedy. A travel advisory before visiting certain locations is interesting to consider-even if I can’t imagine states wanting to warn people to get vaccinated. before visiting. ”

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Valley fever than estimated cost US $ 3.9 billion per year, and by an estimate, a single vaccine could save possibly $ 1.5 billion in health care costs per year. But that cost, and thus the urgency to get a vaccine, is almost certain to increase as climate change expands to locations where valley fever is a risk of infection. The fungus responds to temperature and humidity: It needs a warm environment to thrive, and in wet conditions it stays quiet in the soil. But as the climate warms, new territory will open up Coccidioides, and the changing rain patterns mean that the areas where it begins to grow dry enough for it to break up and drift. There is already a known area of ​​weakness in central Washington State, an area that was once thought to be too cold for fungus. In 2010, three people contracted valley fever there, including a construction worker and a teenager roaring in an ATV.

In 2019, Morgan Gorris, an Earth system scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, used temperature and rainfall data to more accurately estimate where valley fever is endemic, based on the known nature of the fungus in the han -is in humidity and heat. Using the findings, and combining them with various climate warming predictions, he modeled how the extent of valley fever may increase under different greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. Under the highest warming scenario (a global rise of nearly 9 degrees Fahrenheit), the area where the disease will become endemic will double in size by 2100, covering 17 states, including Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, and Dakota. The number of cases, the model predicted, would rise by half. In another analysis based on that work, he estimates that by 2100, the cost of valley fever to the U.S. will reach $ 18.5 billion per year.

That looming bill, with the illness and death that underlie it, may be the very best reason to reach out to create a vaccine. “Climate change can exacerbate ongoing threats and cause new threats,” Gorris said. “We need resources in the future to adequately combat the growing diseases. Having a vaccine to address the risk of valley fever will allow us to free up resources to address other climate change issues. , especially in relation to human health.


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