Dust Bowl-ification of U.S. Southwest leads to 8-fold jump in Valley Fever cases

The infection rate of Valley Fever in the Southwest United States has gone up a stunning 800 percent from 2000 to 2011, as dust storms have more than doubled.

New research directly links the rise in Valley Fever to the rise in dust storms, which in turn is driven by climate change. Valley Fever, which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention calls “a fungal lung infection that can be devastating,” is caused by inhaling soil-dwelling fungus. When the soil dries out and turns to dust, the wind can make the fungus airborne.

“Dust storms are found to better correlated with the disease than any other known controlling factor,“ a new study led by NOAA scientists concluded.

Moreover, the scientists emphasize that “this study provides direct evidence that dust storms in the southwestern United States have become more frequent in the past decade.”

Climate scientists have long predicted — and are now finally observing — the drying out of the Southwest from climate change.

But the biggest concern about modern Dust-Bowlification is the tremendous challenge of “feeding some 9 billion people by mid-century in the face of a rapidly worsening climate.”

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