This story actually appeared on Grist And is part of Meteorological Desk Sharing.

Last week, a long, narrow part of Earth’s atmosphere got stuck. Trillions of gallons of water eastward from the tropical Pacific and landed on California. This weather phenomenon, known as an atmospheric river, Rains broke records.Thrown Over a foot of rain On parts of the state, and knocked for electricity. 800,000 residents. At least nine people were killed. Killed in car accidents or falling trees. But the full impact of the storm’s health effects may not be felt for months.

Flooding caused by heavy winter rains in California is helping to spread a deadly fungal disease called coccidioidomycosis, or valley fever. “Hydroclimate whiplash is moving toward increasingly wide swings between extremely wet and extremely dry conditions,” said Daniel Swain, a climate scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. Humans are finding it difficult to adapt to this new pattern. But the fungus is thriving, Swain said. Valley Fever, he added, “is going to be an increasingly big story.”

Valley fever cases in California broke last year’s record of nine. A back-to-back atmospheric river criticized the state and led to massive record-breaking floods. Last month, the California Department of Public Health issued a Advice to health care providers It said it recorded 9,280 new cases of valley fever with onset dates in 2023 — the highest number the department has ever documented. In a statement provided to Grist, the California Department of Public Health said last year’s climate and disease patterns indicate “the risk of valley fever in California may increase in 2024.”

“If you look at the numbers, it’s surprising,” said Shangxin Yang, a clinical microbiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “About 15 years ago in our lab, we only saw one or two cases a month. Now, it’s two or three cases a week.

Valley fever — named after California’s San Joaquin Valley, where the disease was discovered in a farm worker in the late 1800s — is caused by the spores of a fungus. Coccidioides. If inhaled, the spores can cause severe illness in humans and some animals, including dogs. The fungus is particularly sensitive to extremes of climate. Coccidioides Does not thrive in areas of the United States that receive year-round rainfall, nor can it tolerate persistent drought.

People in hospital with valley fever

Patients in California undergoing treatment for Valley Fever

Photo: Brian Vanderburgh/Los Angeles Times/Getty Images