- Associated Press - Tuesday, May 8, 2018

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Health officials in California’s Santa Barbara County say a slight rise in valley fever cases does not appear linked to last year’s devastating Thomas Fire and the resulting mudslides.

Valley fever is a sometimes deadly respiratory illness caused by inhaling spores found in soil.

Authorities said Tuesday that investigators found only one out of 56 patients whose cases were reviewed was a first responder during the fire or mudslides.

Only four patients lived in the southern part of the county where the fire burned. Two of those patients had traveled to other areas where cases of valley fever are more common.

Officials say the increase appears to follow a statewide rise in valley fever cases seen since 2015 - which is believed to be related to rains following the drought.

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