As the California tourist bureaus aren’t anxious for you to know, everybody who goes out to Monterey for the Defense Language Institute gets the “creeping crud,” otherwise known as “Valley fever” (that doesn’t sound scary) or “coccidioidomycosis” (that does sound scary!). It can give you a nasty fungal pneumonia, or in really bad cases, infest your whole body and give you meningitis. Ew!
In fact, Monterey may be the ideal place to catch it, but the fungus is all over the Southwest (especially Arizona), just waiting to get you. I caught it in LA on a brief visit, for example, and it made me sicker than a dog. It took me months and months to get over it, because NOBODY TOLD ME what it was or how bad it could get. Nor am I the only one. The CDC calls it “a silent epidemic.” Earthquakes and construction stir up the soil the fungus lives in, so outbreaks of the disease tend to follow. It travels on the wind. Yay!
Your dog, cat, and many other mammals can also catch the disease (because really, it’s not so much a disease as fungus using you as its Petri dish). There is no vaccine, but there are antifungal drugs you can taken internally (if you know what you have!). A lot of people have it and get over it without any symptoms, though.
Also, the Southwest is full of bubonic plague carried by mice.
Now if that wasn’t bad enough, LA and British Columbia have a new happy little fungus also trying to destroy your lungs and give you fungal meningitis. Unfortunately, it’s a lot better at it. Meet Cryptococcus gattii!
It’s a great life if your immune system doesn’t weaken….