Health

Tuesday, Jul 23 2013 05:26 PM

Kern County unveils new valley fever website

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    By Kern County Public Health published a new website all about valley fever - http://kerncountyvalleyfever.com/.

    Kern County Public Health published a new website all about valley fever - http://kerncountyvalleyfever.com/.

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BY RACHEL COOK Californian staff writer rcook@bakersfield.com

In August 1901, a 19-year-old cannery worker was the first to be diagnosed with valley fever in Kern County.

Nearly 112 years later, Kern County Public Health workers unveiled a sleek new website dedicated to all aspects of the disease.

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Check out Kern County's new valley fever website at kerncountyvalleyfever.com.

In a presentation to the Kern County Board of Supervisors Tuesday, public health Director Matt Constantine said it's more than just another government web page.

"It's more than a website. We're really trying to develop this concept of a center of excellence where people can go to for all kinds of (valley fever) questions," he said.

People contract valley fever, also known as coccidioidomycosis, by inhaling fungal spores from the soil in the Southwest. Symptoms can range from flu-like ailments to serious complications that can be deadly.

The disease gained a higher profile this year when a federal receiver ordered California to move inmates at greater risk of developing serious valley fever cases out of two state prisons in the Central Valley.

Constantine also noted the attention valley fever has received by the Reporting on Health Collaborative, a statewide reporting team including The Californian that over the last year has been chronicling valley fever's extensive human and taxpayer toll.

"We have received more interest and we're grateful for the attention," Constantine said.

The new website is chock-full of interactive graphs charting Kern's valley fever cases, answers to common questions like "Is valley fever contagious?" and research under way to track the disease. The site can be translated into 70 languages.

Kirt Emery, health assessment and epidemiology program manager, said the website offers "very simple information" that communicates to people beyond the county "what Kern County is doing and why we have such a large reputation as being experts in this field."

He hopes to expand the site to include resources for health care providers and information about how valley fever affects animals.

Public health officials also touted an upcoming valley fever symposium to be held in Bakersfield in late September. Constantine said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, his department and both the California and Arizona state public health departments are working on a program that will offer both the latest information on valley fever and a forum for the public.

"This is a unique opportunity to really move forward with valley fever in the 2010s'," Emery said. "Where are we going to be five, 10 years from now? This is the starting point I really believe the symposium's going to lead us to."

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