An outbreak of coccidioidomycosis (valley fever) caused by landslides triggered by the 1994 Northridge, California, earthquake
Published:January 01, 1998
Randall W. Jibson, Edwin L. Harp, Eileen Schneider, Rana A. Hajjeh, Richard A. Spiegel, 1998. "An outbreak of coccidioidomycosis (valley fever) caused by landslides triggered by the 1994 Northridge, California, earthquake", A Paradox of Power, Charles W. Welby, Monica E. Gowan
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Following the January 17, 1994, Northridge, California, earthquake (M = 6.7), Ventura County, California, experienced a major outbreak of coccidioidomycosis (valley fever), a respiratory disease contracted by inhaling airborne fungal spores. In the eight weeks following the earthquake (January 24 through March 15), 203 outbreak-associated cases were reported, which is about an order of magnitude more than the expected number of cases, and 3 of these cases were fatal. Simi Valley, in easternmost Ventura County, had the highest attack rate in the county, and the attack rate decreased westward across the county. The temporal and spatial distribution of coccidioidomycosis cases indicates that the outbreak resulted from inhalation of spore-contaminated dust generated by earthquake-triggered landslides. Canyons northeast of Simi Valley produced many highly disrupted, dust-generating landslides during the earthquake and its aftershocks. Prevailing winds after the earthquake were from the northeast, which transported dust into Simi Valley and beyond to communities to the west. The 3 fatalities from the coccidioidomycosis epidemic accounted for 4% of the total earthquake-related fatalities.
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A Paradox of Power
The 13 papers in this volume illustrate issues and opportunities confronting geologists as they bring their knowledge and understanding to bear in matters related to public health and welfare. Public decisions and decision-making processes in the face of geologic complexity and uncertainty are the subject of the first group of papers. In the second group, several “voice of warning” papers illustrate the use of geologic knowledge and research to warn the public of health hazards derived from geologic materials and processes. A third group of papers, in the “voice of reason” section, describes use of geologic knowledge to help lower the costs of mitigation and avoidance of geologic hazards. Finally, ethical and philosophical questions confronting geoscientists are discussed and issues of “truth” as related to the legal process and questions about the adequacy of information in making decisions about long-term radioactive waste disposal are discussed.