HonorPoncaCityDotCom writes "BBC reports that cases of an incurable illness called valley fever are multiplying at an alarming and mystifying rate in the American south-west. Few places have been hit as hard as Avenal, a remote city of 14,000 people, nestling in a dip in the floor of the San Joaquin Valley in what experts refer to as a 'hot zone' for coccidioidomycosis — an illness caused by the inhalation of tiny fungal spores that usually reside in the soil. 'On windy days you are more conscious of it,' says Enrique Jimenez. 'You breathe in through your nose, and try not to breathe in as much dust. I worked in the fields for a long time, my father managed a few crops out here, and we took precautions, wearing bandanas.' Valley Fever is not easy to treat. Anti-fungal drugs are available for serious cases but some patients don't respond and it can take years to clear up. It never leaves the body and symptoms can be triggered again. Some patients are on the drugs for life, at a crippling financial cost. During World War II, German prisoners held at a camp in Arizona fell ill. Germany reportedly invoked the Geneva Convention to try to get them moved. Longstanding concerns about valley fever were heightened recently when a federal health official ordered the transfer of more than 3,000 exceptionally vulnerable inmates from two San Joaquin Valley prisons where several dozen have died of the disease in recent years. Dale Pulde, a motorcycle mechanic in Los Angeles County, said he contracted the disease three years ago after traveling to Bakersfield in Kern County and was coughing so hard he was blacking out; he spit blood and couldn't catch his breath. For two months, doctors tested him for everything from tuberculosis to cancer until blood tests confirmed he had the fever. 'When I found out that health officials knew about (this disease) and how common it is, I was beside myself,' said Pulde. 'Why don't they tell people?'"