Okay, here is [b]my cut[/b] on the risk. [b]I'm not a doctor either.
I think Valley Fever is far more dangerous than many media articles and even most popular "mainstream" health web sites often imply because of several factors. (which I will get to in a second)
That does [b]NOT[/b] mean that people should avoid the (spectacularly beautiful and fascinating) Southwest [i]or life-broadening experiences like Burning Man![/i]
What it [b]does[/b] mean is that [b]people should BE AWARE of what they might be dealing with in this fungi[/b]. Its a health issue that I think the BM organizers should give every "burner" an information sheet on with the request that they keep it for at least a year after they leave BM. (longer if they don't thoroughly clean their gear after they leave)
That handout should emphasize prevention and sane avoidance of situations that are asking for trouble..
And as people arrive at the event, they should also be asked (if they are returning for a second or third or tenth time) if they got any VF-like symptoms and if they did, they should be offered access to testing so that they will know if they are seropositive to VF in case it comes back. And statistics should be kept so that if there are areas that people get sick in they can be identified.. See the URL I posted before.. there are probably significant differences in the probabilities of someone getting VF from soil in any area of significant size)
Even in endemic areas, most people don't get VF, BUT for the people who do, it can be devastating to them in some situations.
I would say, get the opinion of some real experts on the subject (there are maybe 10 or 20 people who would qualify..) what to do in a situation like Burning Man. They should be told where it is, specifically. (Let them decide what the probability of its being in the soil there is. There are a lot of factors involved, its highly technical.)
Also, I would ask doctors in that area, especially pulmonologists and infectious disease doctors, if they see it. I don't know if its a reportable disease in Nevada and even if it is, I don't know if most doctors pay attention to stuff like that in these hard economic times. (it would mean paperwork)
They might suggest harm reduction.. Perhaps that you tell 'burners' especially to take care not to disturb soil deeply whenever the dust might be likely to blow onto people. Landslides and dust storms also are very bad risk situations in endemic areas (even non-endemic areas, because VF appears to perhaps have been far more endemic in the past, and it lives on in the deep soil long after other microbes probably have died. For example, Simi Valley and the Northridge Earthquake)
People who deal with disturbed, deep dust probably need to wear P100 level particulate protection.. (better than N-95)
Perhaps 'burners' should be made aware of the symptoms of VF?
I would try to get some expert advice. Then the BM medical team can integrate the policy to inform folk, gather information, both health and also geospatial and manage any potential issues..
If it is untreated, and isn't caught in time, the cost can be substantial, and it can kill people.
From what I have gathered, VF is a major public health issue that people who have it often o misdiagnosed for years.
Obviously, those folks feel it is being ignored. But - keep this in mind, its not infrequently only found in people (and animals)when they are dead and an autopsy is being done. Its also a SERIOUS problem for pets.. especially dogs, who are more likely to get sick than humans.
The people who study these illnesses will be the first to tell you that the more they learn, the more they realize we need to learn.
People are working on both a vaccine and also a permanent treatment but funding is not where it needs to be. (Even though the Southwest is growing rapidly in economic importance, these needs are still not a high enough priority to drive Federal research dollars. (although that hopefully will change if Janet Napolitano, current governor of Arizona, who is familiar with the issue, is approved as Director of Homeland Security.)
Don't just believe the media.. Important specifics of coccidioidomycosis epidemiology and treatment seem to me to often be wrong in the popular media with the result that many people don't get the appropriate treatment. That can sometimes lead to very tragic avoidable outcomes.
The misconceptions seem to often be about the facts that normal people can and often do get the more serious forms of disease, and that the spores live on in the body, held in check by a functioning immune system.
Current treatments can beat it back, but it doesn't completely go away. Stress, even, can bring it out.
Nonwhite people, especially black and Filipino people, people with AIDS, pregnant women, etc. are particularly endangered.
Additionally, people who have never been in the Southwest before, those over 55-60 and the very young, and anybody who takes drugs that depress their immune system (steroids, some arthritis drugs, probably many others) or who is exposed to (common, often hidden or unknown, or perhaps un-admitted by our govt.) environmental toxins that depress their immune system are mentioned repeatedly in the literature as being of higher risk of serious illness.
Please weigh contacting some of the experts in the field and spending some time getting some suggestions from them to prevent and identify Coccidioidomycosis risk factors in the Burning Man environment and creating a feedback loop among attendees.
If that was done, who knows, there is a wild chance that somehow there might also be the chance to do some interesting science as to how to prevent valley fever- Where else do so many computer literate folks with great ideas come together in the desert to do interesting things, coming back once a year, at the same time.. every year! Its a dream situation for epidemiologists.
Given the incredible wealth of talent and technical skillsets of many of the people who come to Burning Man each year, I can't think of a better environment on this entire planet in which to do this in. You would be doing a great service to all of the people of the Southwest if you did come up with any relevant science.