Los Angeles County General Hospital records
indicated that cases had originated near Canoga
Park in the San Fernando Valley and suggested this
region as an endemic focus. Seven patients with coccidioidomycosis [Valley Fever]
were subsequently admitted to
the Los Angeles County General Hospital in the fall
of 1948 from a Los Angeles County probation camp
near Saugus [Camp 4, Bouquet Canyon].
These observations led to the organization of serial
skin test and serial complement fixation test
surveys in three probation camps within the county,
and also to coccidioidin test surveys in Canoga Park
and Newhall high schools. A similar survey in Los
Angeles High School, located within the city of Los
Angeles, was organized as a control.
* * *
In coccidioidin skin test surveys among
persons of high school age in Saugus, Canoga
Park, Banning and Palm Springs areas the
average incidence of positive reaction was 15
per cent. Although considerably less than the
68 per cent incidence reported among high
school students of Kern County, it is high
enough to indicate pockets of relatively high
endemicity in Southern California below the
San Joaquin Valley.
Histoplasmin tests were performed on most
of the persons tested with coccidioidin in this
survey. The overall incidence of positive reaction
in the group was 7.6 per cent. Most of
the subjects with positive reaction to histoplasmin
gave a history of having previously
lived in some area in the central United
States where histoplasmosis is known to be
A few subjects who had positive reaction to
coccidioidin tests and who had lived in areas
known to be endemic for coccidioidomycosis
but not for histoplasmosis, also had positive
reaction to histoplasmin. However, the induration
produced was always smaller than that
caused by the coccidioidin reaction, and there
was minimal confusion in interpreting the
The 1948 outbreaks of Valley Fever in Saugus and elsewhere, and the subsequent testing for it, do not seem to have been reported in the press. So, instead we offer the following news articles that probably
characterize the public's perception of the disease in 1948, to the extent anyone heard of it at all.
Doctors Describe 'Valley Disease,' Like Tuberculosis.
International News Service (Hearst), as published in The Fresno Bee | Thursday, April 22, 1948.
Click to enlarge.
San Francisco, April 22 — (INS) — A disease which closely mimics tuberculosis but is not nearly as serious was described before the San Francisco convention of the American College of Physicians today.
Dr. Charles E. Smith of Stanford University said the infection is known as "valley fever," "desert fever" or "desert rheumatism." Its formidable scientific name is coccidioidomycosis.
He declared the disease flourishes in certain parts of California, particularly in the southern two-thirds of the San Joaquin Valley; in Arizona, western Texas, southern New Mexico and generally all the areas along the Rio Grande to the Gulf of Mexico.
Scientists believe that nearly 100 per cent of the people living in these areas for any period of years have had the infection, the vast majority of them in mild form.
Symptoms, when they appear, include sporadic red swellings on the body, lung lesions and — more rarely — a usually fatal progressive infection which, like advanced tuberculosis, spreads swiftly through the body.
Women are considerably more prone to contract the mild form, while five times as many men as women are likely to get the most serious and often fatal form of the infection.
Dr. Smith reported the disease is far more dangerous for Mexicans and Negroes than for other peoples.
Smith said physicians must be on guard to distinguish between tuberculosis and "valley fever" which does not require the drastic treatment needed by tuberculosis patients.
Explaining methods of diagnosing the disease, Dr. Smith said the first step is a skin test with coccidioidin, an extract of the disease germ. If this indicates infection, confirming evidence then can be obtained through recovery of the infecting fungus from a patient's sputum or stomach contents.
Blood tests also can assist in establishing the diagnosis.
You Probably Have Had It, But Don't Worry, Anyway
Associated Press, as published in The Arizona Republic | Friday, April 23, 1948.
Click to enlarge.
San Francisco, Apr. 22 — (AP) — If you knew you were going to be sick and you have a choice of illnesses, you might want to consider Coccidioidomycosis.
This multi-syllable ailment produces symptoms resembling tuberculosis but is not nearly as bad as it sounds, two public health researchers told the American College of Physicians today.
Practically 100 per cent of the long-term residents of certain areas in Arizona, west Texas, southern New Mexico and California's San Joaquin valley have had it, they said.
The report, by Dr. Charles K. Smith and Dr. Rodney Beard, of Stanford University Medical School, covered several years of investigation in the areas where valley fever, as the disease is commonly called, is endemic.
The disease is so mild, Dr. Smith said, that many people who have had it cannot recall any illness. But doctors can tell by making skin, sputum or blood tests.
In rare instances, the disease is serious. It has been known to medicine for 50 years but until recently only the serious cases were recognized, Dr. Smith said. It is caused by a fungus.
Click to enlarge.
Newspaper Enterprise Association, as published in the Bakersfield Californian | Tuesday, November 9, 1948.
[...] Another interesting disease caused by fungi is a condition called coccidioidomycosis. Originally it was believed that this disease was restricted to a valley in California, but it is now known to occur in other parts of the west. It is sometimes called valley fever, desert fever, or desert rheumatism. It is a disease primarily of small mice-like animals living in hot, dry climates, and people are only accidentally involved.