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MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2018 Aug 24;67(33):931-934. doi: 10.15585/mmwr.mm6733a4.

Coccidioidomycosis Outbreak Among Workers Constructing a Solar Power Farm - Monterey County, California, 2016-2017.


In January 2017, two local health departments notified the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) of three cases of coccidioidomycosis among workers constructing a solar power installation (solar farm) in southeastern Monterey County. Coccidioidomycosis, or Valley fever, is an infection caused by inhalation of the soil-dwelling fungus Coccidioides, which is endemic in the southwestern United States, including California. After a 1-3 week incubation period, coccidioidomycosis most often causes influenza-like symptoms or pneumonia, but rarely can lead to severe disseminated disease or death (1). Persons living, working, or traveling in areas where Coccidioides is endemic can inhale fungal spores; workers who are performing soil-disturbing activities are particularly at risk. CDPH previously investigated one outbreak among solar farm construction workers that started in 2011 and made recommendations for reducing risk for infection, including worker education, dust suppression, and use of personal protective equipment (2,3). For the current outbreak, the CDPH, in collaboration with Monterey County and San Luis Obispo County public health departments, conducted an investigation that identified nine laboratory-confirmed cases of coccidioidomycosis among 2,410 solar farm employees and calculated a worksite-specific incidence rate that was substantially higher than background county rates, suggesting that illness was work-related. The investigation assessed risk factors for potential occupational exposures to identify methods to prevent further workplace illness.

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