A real graveyard curse: Archaeologists susceptible to fungal disease


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I had valley fever when I was a kid in AZ. It can be quite debilitating, and left a shadow on my lung. Later in high school when I was at some digs in the desert, they warned everyone about it as a general rule, although I hadn’t heard of anyone catching it. It stays in your body a long time after, when I was still little, I had great fun telling doctors I had coccidioidomycosis that might show up on a test, if they hadn’t been in AZ very long, they’d never heard of it.

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.


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