Valley fever fungal infection on rise in Southwest

Valley fever fungal infection on rise in southwest
Flu-like symptoms can last weeks or months, CDC researchers say.

(HealthDay)—Cases of a fungal lung infection called Valley Fever increased sharply in several southwestern states since the late 1990s, according to a report released Thursday.

In Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, the number of cases climbed from less than 2,300 in 1998 to more than 22,000 in 2011, the U.S. found.

During that time, Arizona and California had the largest average increases in Valley Fever incidence, at 66 percent and 31 percent per year, respectively.

Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis) is caused by inhaling a fungus called Coccidioides, which lives in the soil in southwestern states. Not everyone who is exposed to the fungus gets sick, but those who do become ill typically have flu-like symptoms that can last for weeks or months.

More than 40 percent of patients who get sick may require hospitalization, with an average cost of nearly $50,000 per visit. And research has shown that 75 percent of those who get sick miss work or school for about two weeks, the CDC said.

Between 1998 and 2011, nearly 112,000 cases of Valley Fever were reported in 28 states and Washington, D.C., but 66 percent of the cases were in Arizona, 31 percent were in California, 1 percent were in Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, and about 1 percent were in all other states combined.

More research is needed to determine what is causing the increase in Valley Fever and how to reduce its effects, the CDC said. Possible reasons could be , weather changes that could affect where the fungus grows and how much of it is circulating, or changes in the way the disease is detected and reported to the CDC.

"Valley Fever is causing real health problems for many people living in the southwestern United States," Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, said in an agency news release. "Because fungus particles spread through the air, it's nearly impossible to completely avoid exposure to this in these hardest-hit states. It's important that people be aware of Valley Fever if they live in or have traveled to the southwest United ."

Doctors and patients need to be aware that the symptoms of Valley Fever are very similar to flu or pneumonia symptoms, the CDC said. A lab test is the only way to diagnosis Valley Fever.

Not everyone who gets Valley Fever requires treatment, but early diagnosis and treatment are important for those at risk for the more severe forms of the disease. Those at higher risk for severe disease include people of Asian descent (particularly Filipino), blacks, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, according to the CDC website.

More information: The American Lung Association has more about Valley Fever.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Researchers advance vaccine against Valley fever

Jul 07, 2009

Medical mycologists in The South Texas Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases (STCEID) and the Department of Biology at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) have significantly advanced the fight against San Joaquin ...

Valley Fever often misdiagnosed

Feb 28, 2011

While common in Arizona, Valley Fever often is misdiagnosed in patients, leading to a litany of problems. The infection is caused by inhaling a fungus that lives in the soil and becomes airborne by wind, dust storms, digging ...

CDC: 15 US deaths tied to rare tropical fungus

Jul 22, 2010

(AP) -- U.S. health officials say a fungus usually found in the tropics has taken root in the Pacific Northwest and has been blamed for at least 60 illnesses and 15 deaths.

Virus death toll rises in Kenya

Jan 26, 2007

Officials in Kenya are trying to stop the spread of Rift Valley Fever, which has killed at least 148 people.

Death toll rises as flu epidemic grips US

Jan 12, 2013

The death toll from a flu outbreak gripping the United States has reached epidemic levels and it will be at least several weeks before the outbreak abates, health officials said Friday.

Recommended for you

Oral contraceptive equal to antibiotics for acne care

2 hours ago

(HealthDay)—At six months, oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) are comparable to systemic antibiotics for acne management, according to a review published in the September issue of the Journal of the American Ac ...

Photodynamic therapy vs. cryotherapy for actinic keratoses

4 hours ago

Photodynamic therapy (PDT, which uses topical agents and light to kill tissue) appears to better clear actinic keratoses (AKs, a common skin lesion caused by sun damage) at three months after treatment than cryotherapy (which ...

US official warns Ebola outbreak will get worse

5 hours ago

A third top doctor has died from Ebola in Sierra Leone, a government official said Wednesday, as a leading American health official warned that the outbreak sweeping West Africa would get worse before it ...

UN releases $1.5mn to help DR Congo fight Ebola

7 hours ago

The United Nations on Wednesday allocated $1.5 million (1.1 million euros) to help the Democratic Republic of Congo fight Ebola, just days after the country confirmed its first cases this year.

User comments