It’s the third most commonly reported disease in Arizona. The Arizona Department of Health Services reports that sixty percent of all reported cases of valley fever, or coccidioidomycosis, in the U.S. occur in Arizona.
Valley fever infections have tripled in our state over the past decade. According to the Valley Fever Alliance, infection results from breathing tiny fungal spores that are released from the soil into the air.
Many valley fever infections cause little or no symptoms but approximately a third develop illness that mimics pneumonia.
Symptoms of valley fever may include coughing, severe fatigue, joint pain, & rashes. The disease is often misdiagnosed as a bacterial pneumonia or even lung cancer.
With most healthy people, the disease eventually resolves on its own. But a small percentage of patients, says the Alliance, develop serious complications such as chronic pneumonia or the spread of the fungus elsewhere in the body.
According to the Mayo Clinic vacationers who spend a few days golfing or hiking in Arizona may return home with valley fever, but are never tested for the disease. So it is important to mention the disease to winter visitors who become ill after traveling to the state, especially if they are exposed to farming areas, windy conditions, or construction sites.
This Sunday, November 7, the Valley Fever Alliance will host a walk in Downtown Phoenix to support the Valley Fever Center for Excellence at the University of Arizona.
The center provides education and support to physicians and the general public, and provides funds to continue research for diagnostic tools, drugs and a vaccine to prevent the disease. Find out more about other events to support the Alliance here.