A real graveyard curse: Archaeologists susceptible to fungal disease

Valley fever is a respiratory disease that can cause flu-like symptoms, rashes, and (sometimes) chronic lung problems. It's caused by a fungus that lives in dry soil, essentially hibernating for years until it's reinvigorated by moisture. Valley fever is best known for infecting prisoners in the American southwest, but it's also an occupational hazard of archaeologists ... who spend most of their lives sifting through the soils where the fungus lives.

Notable Replies

  1. I worked as an archaeologist in the San Joaquin Valley (near the town of Wasco) back in 2001, and I knew that Valley Fever was a big problem in the area. My girlfriend's dad and mom were farmers in the area, and her mother had contracted Valley Fever just from incidental exposure to the dust in the area. Knowing what I did about VF, I decided I would wear a respirator when I was excavating. What ensued was pretty bizarre. Everyone else in my crew was either nonchalant about the situation, or were outright clueless. But then my co-workers, who until this job I had got along with just fine, reacted pretty bizarrely, and decided to mock me, to the point of ostracization. It was a really odd group-psychology situation. Rather than admit there was a problem, everyone tried to paint me as the crazy guy. Well, whatever. I ditched that company as soon as I could. Now I know of lots of archaeologists who have contracted VF. And guess what? Being a macho prick doesn't make you immune.

Continue the discussion bbs.boingboing.net

2 more replies