With cases of respiratory illness rising in Arizona, it’s easy to overlook the possibility that Valley fever might be the reason for a cough, fever, or exhaustion. Caused by a fungus that can be carried by blowing dust, Valley fever is one of the most commonly reported infectious diseases in our state. Anyone who lives or travels here is at risk.
During Valley Fever Awareness Week, we’re encouraging Arizonans to ask their health care providers to test for Valley fever if they have symptoms, which also can include rash, chest pain, night sweats, muscle aches, headaches, weight loss, and lack of appetite.
The fungus that causes Valley fever grows in the soil, and the risk is year-round. That makes it important to take steps to reduce exposure in all seasons. Remember to wet dirt before digging, wear a N95 respirator if you expect to be exposed to blowing dust, and wash your hands thoroughly.
Valley fever can last for weeks or even months. It also can lead to severe illness in some individuals, particularly those with weakened immune systems, African Americans and Filipinos, and people who have diabetes.
Cases of Valley fever in Arizona have increased markedly in recent years, with 11,489 cases reported to public health in 2021 compared to 6,101 in 2016. The reason for this increase isn’t certain, but it may be linked with changes in precipitation, the historically hot and dry summer of 2020, increased Valley fever testing, and-or reporting practices related to COVID-19.
In addition to taking steps to reduce exposure to blowing dust, the best way to protect yourself is to learn the signs and symptoms of Valley fever and to ask for a test if you have symptoms.