A microbial risk assessor's guide to Valley Fever (Coccidioides spp.): Case study and review of risk factors

David Kahn, William Chen, Yarrow Linden, Karalee A. Corbeil, Sarah Lowry, Ciara A. Higham, Karla S. Mendez, Paige Burch, Taylor DiFondi, Marc Verhougstraete, Anneclaire J. De Roos, Charles N. Haas, Charles Gerba, Kerry A. Hamilton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Valley Fever is a respiratory disease caused by inhalation of arthroconidia, a type of spore produced by fungi within the genus Coccidioides spp. which are found in dry, hot ecosystems of the Western Hemisphere. A quantitative microbial risk assessment (QMRA) for the disease has not yet been performed due to a lack of dose-response models and a scarcity of quantitative occurrence data from environmental samples. A literature review was performed to gather data on experimental animal dosing studies, environmental occurrence, human disease outbreaks, and meteorological associations. As a result, a risk framework is presented with information for parameterizing QMRA models for Coccidioides spp., with eight new dose-response models proposed. A probabilistic QMRA was conducted for a Southwestern US agricultural case study, evaluating eight scenarios related to farming occupational exposures. Median daily workday risks for developing severe Valley Fever ranged from 2.53 × 10−7 (planting by hand while wearing an N95 facemask) to 1.33 × 10−3 (machine harvesting while not wearing a facemask). The literature review and QMRA synthesis confirmed that exposure to aerosolized arthroconidia has the potential to result in high attack rates but highlighted that the mechanistic relationships between environmental conditions and disease remain poorly understood. Recommendations for Valley Fever risk assessment research needs in order to reduce disease risks are discussed, including interventions for farmers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number170141
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Mar 20 2024


  • C. immitis
  • C. posadasii meteorological factors
  • Climate
  • Coccidioides
  • Coccidioidomycosis
  • Valley fever
  • Weather

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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