Every year in the United States approximately 150,000 people are believed to be infected by Coccidioidomycosis, the fungus that causes Valley Fever. It is one of the most commonly reported infectious diseases in Arizona, and our state accounts for 65 percent of all reported cases in the US.
Most people that are infected have mild or no symptoms at all; however some people suffer from more severe symptoms such as pneumonia or the spread of the fungus to other parts of the body, including the brain. Valley Fever also infects animals such as dogs and even lions. Although the upcoming 2014 Annual Valley Fever Report shows a decrease in reported cases in Arizona over the past few years, reports of Valley Fever have been increasing in the last few months.
Epidemiologists, our disease detectives, at the Arizona Department of Health Services are looking into why we’re seeing this increase and are continuing to work with county health departments and the Valley Fever Center for Excellence at the University of Arizona to monitor the disease and provide education to healthcare providers and the public.
As part of the efforts to raise awareness about the seriousness of the disease, Governor Doug Ducey has proclaimed November 7 through 15 as Valley Fever Awareness Week. Public lectures, online courses for medical providers, and public service announcements at select movie theaters and radio stations are just some of the activities that will take place this week across the state. The take home message is that if you are having symptoms of a cough, fever, or feeling exhausted, you need to ask your doctor to test you for Valley Fever.