We’re smack dab in the middle of monsoon now, which means it’s time to think about Valley Fever. It’s a lung infection caused by a fungus that lives in the soil in the desert (below 4,000 feet). People get it by breathing in dust that contains fungal spores. Valley Fever causes cough, fever, headache, feeling tired, and shortness of breath. Other signs can include a rash, night sweats, and losing weight. Sometimes, the fungus causes serious disease. You can’t get Valley Fever from another person.
Serious (or disseminated) disease happens when the Valley Fever infection spreads to the skin, joints, bones, or brain. Disseminated disease, especially brain infections, can be deadly and may require treatment for life. Pregnant women, people with weak immune systems, and people of African-American or Asian (especially Filipino) descent are at a higher risk for developing serious disease.
It’s hard to prevent Valley Fever infections. Avoiding activities associated with airborne dirt can be an option, but no guarantee against getting infected. Dust storms are common during monsoon so it’s important to stay inside when you see a lot of dust in the air outside. The best method of prevention is to educate yourself about Valley Fever. If you have any Valley Fever symptoms, ask your doctor to test you for Valley Fever.
Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen a huge increase in the number of Valley Fever cases in Arizona . In 2012, there were about 13,000 cases. Our Office of Infectious Disease Services monitors rates of Valley Fever in Arizona, carries out investigations to better understand the disease, and educates healthcare providers and the public. If you want to learn more about Valley Fever, including information on educational materials, please visit: http://www.valleyfeverarizona.org.