College Place man battles rare 'Valley Fever'

The fungus changes when it infects a person and cannot be transmitted from one person to another.


COLLEGE PLACE -- A College Place man is seriously ill with what is thought to be the area's lone case of coccidiodiomyosis, more commonly known as "Valley Fever."

Dorlin Haste, owner of Digger D Excavating, was hospitalized at Providence St. Mary Medical Center on May 25 with "a multitude of disturbing symptoms," according to an email from his wife, Judy Haste.

He would later be diagnosed with coccidiodiomyosis, but not before throwing health-care providers for a loop.

"As his condition steadily progressively worsened, he was then transported by Med-Star (June 2) to the University of Washington Medical Center ..."

Valley Fever is a fungal disease caused by coccidioides species, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "These organisms live in the soil of semiarid areas. It is endemic in areas such as the southwestern United States, parts of Mexico and South America. Most of the people who get the disease are people who live in or visit places where the fungus is in the soil. Many also engage in activities that expose them to dust, such as construction, agricultural work, military field training and archeological exploration."

People can get Valley Fever by inhaling fungal spores that become airborne after disturbance of contaminated soil by humans or natural disasters, like dust storms and earthquakes. The fungus changes its form when it infects a person and cannot be transmitted from one person to another, the CDC said.

Haste, 58, remains in the Seattle-area hospital and was listed in satisfactory condition on Thursday. His case has been a puzzle to local and state health officials.

More than half the people exposed to the fungus develop no symptoms and affected people typically recover weeks to months after the onset of symptoms.

On the severe side, however, when the infection spreads outside of the lungs, it most commonly results in skin lesions, central nervous system infection -- such as meningitis -- and bone and joint infection, according to the CDC, which is involved in Haste's case.

"Dorlin Haste was quite ill," noted Harvey Crowder, administrator for Walla Walla County Public Health. "This can cause everything from mild respiratory symptoms to severe fungal infection and death."

The disease is most often found in central California, he said. "We've had three cases here in Eastern Washington in about two years. Any case in this area is unusual."

A handful of coccidiodiomyosis cases are reported every year to the state Department of Health, said Nicola Marsden-Haug, an epidemiologist in the department who is working on the Haste case. None of the known exposures have originated inside Washington state.

"Most of our cases have a very clear path of exposure in the southwestern U.S. We get (reports) from people who spend six months in Arizona -- we have a lot of snow birds -- then they come down with it."

Haste, who excavates dirt in his profession, has not been out of the area for a number of years, officials said, but investigators are exploring the possibility the fungus can be dormant in the body for a couple of decades before becoming reactive, Marsden-Haug said. "One of the issues is the disease is not completely understood."

Haste has been through extensive testing and the illness forced him into dialysis and ventilator use. It's unknown how long he will remain hospitalized and when he will be able to return to his business, which is the family's sole source of income.

A benefit account for Dorlin J. Haste has been established at Banner Bank and donations can be made at any branch.


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