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Valley fever hits Carrizo Plain solar farms hard

Public health agencies are investigating a high number of valley fever cases in San Luis Obispo County.

Twenty-eight people involved in the two major solar projects in the Carrizo Plains have been diagnosed with valley fever.

The Topaz Solar Farm and the California Valley Solar Ranch projects are currently underway. Crews are moving a lot of soil in the area to make way for solar panels.

Currently the State Department of Public Health, the California division of Occupational Safety and Health or OSHA and the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department are all investigating.

Valley fever is contracted by breathing in fungal spores found in desert soils.

“Valley fever is basically a fungus infection in the lungs. The fungus lives in soils. That means if you are going to be engaging in soil disturbing activities you have to protect yourself from inhaling soil particles,” said Dr. James Beebe, director of Public Health at the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department.

Valley fever is treatable and in a majority of cases people don’t even know they have it. Symptoms include a cough, fever and sometimes a rash may appear.

The best thing to do is prevent it by wearing breathing masks.

The state’s Public Health Department said they cannot discuss the details of the investigation. Valley fever is not contagious.

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