The state has seen a large increase of Valley Fever cases over the last decade and the change in weather could be to blame as Arizona becomes drier and dustier.
"Two-thirds of all Valley Fever infections occur in Arizona and 80 percent of those cases are in Maricopa County," says John Galgiani, MD, director of the Valley Fever Center at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center and the University of Arizona. "Anyone who's breathing in Arizona has a chance of getting this infection."
Valley Fever is an infectious disease caused by a fungus that grows in the soil of Sonoran desert surrounding Phoenix. Exposure occurs after a spore from the fungus becomes airborne because of soil disruption, and is inhaled. Last year, Arizona had 12,000 reported cases of Valley Fever.
Valley Fever symptoms include chest pain, cough, fever, and rash. Muscle and joint aches are also common. The condition is commonly misdiagnosed and symptoms can continue for months.
"For most people symptoms will go away, but a small percentage of people go on to have very serious problems as a result of the infection," says Dr. Galgiani. "There's approximately 400 of those serious cases a year in Arizona and approximately 100 deaths a year from this disease."
The Valley Fever Center at St. Joseph's began treating patients last year and gives patients the best available treatment options for the disease.