Valley Fever Cases "Skyrocketing," With Most Cases in Arizona

Categories: Medical Waste
valley-fvr.jpg
cdc.gov
Relevant imagery, according to the CDC.
The number of people getting Valley Fever is "skyrocketing," which, unfortunately for everyone, is not a reference to the readership of the New Times news blog.

The Arizona Department of Health Services passed along the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention news explaining that Valley Fever cases "dramatically increased," in southwestern states, and specifically, Arizona.

Between Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah there were 2,265 Valley Fever cases in 1998. In 2011, there were more than 22,000.

In case you're not familiar with the illness, it sucks, per the CDC's explanation:

Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis) is caused by inhaling a fungus called Coccidioides, which lives in the soil in the southwestern United States. Not everyone who is exposed to the fungus gets sick, but those who do typically have flu-like symptoms that can last for weeks or months. More than 40 percent of patients who get ill from Valley Fever may require hospitalization at some point, with an average cost of nearly $50,000 per hospital visit. Previous studies have shown that, of those who get sick, nearly 75 percent miss work or school - for approximately two weeks.

The worse news, according to a statement from CDC Director Tom Frieden, is that it's "nearly impossible to completely avoid exposure to this fungus in these hardest-hit states."

Of the 112,000 Valley Fever cases from '98 to 2011, 66 percent were in Arizona.

The CDC says changes in weather are causing the increase -- maybe. It may also be that there are more people in Arizona, or that more cases are just being reported -- the agency doesn't really know, which isn't reassuring.

If you understand medical/science-talk, the CDC's report can be found here.

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14 comments
lainer
lainer

Hmmm, here's a theory. Lots of construction being done in Arizona, stirring up the dirt. Then you have the lawn care guys with their leaf blowers blowing dirt and debris all over the place. 

ANGRYCOCKROACH
ANGRYCOCKROACH

Originally it was known to be devastating and some people very ill for life.  Some even get all over body sores as per the local news (a few years ago.)  Once many people started being Dx'd with this suddenly the parameters of illness admitted by the medical establishment changed.  So now when they remove your Valley Fever lung tumor and you are still inexplicably ill the doctors will tell you that you are cured and they don't know why you are still sick - or worse yet, give you mental Dx having no other legitimate explanation for your symptoms.  Its simple really, your insurance simply does not want to pay for ongoing care.

boomer1949
boomer1949

Caught as a kid...freaked out the medics in the Army, turns out exposure to the fungus can cause the initial old style TB tine test to come up positive...then they found out I was from Phoenix...but I did get half a day off.

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

Don't worry, Matthew, your column is just as infectious as the dreaded disease.  All of us keep coming back so we must be fully infected. 

valleynative
valleynative

The report says that the increase is largely among people over 60, who are the most likely to be diagnosed.

It would be interesting to see statistics on how long they had lived in Arizona.  I would bet that people over 60 are statistically more likely to have lived in the State for only a few years, are more likely to get sicker from any viral infection and are more likely to see a physician when they get sick.

Those of us who grew up here aren't likely to be diagnosed after age 60 because most (but not all, as WhoKnows says) people develop immunity.

valleynative
valleynative

The article says that "not everybody gets sick", but doesn't make it clear that only a very small percentage do get sick enough to require treatment, and that it's 40% of them who are seriously ill.  They used to tell us that if you've lived in the Valley for 10 years, you will test positive, but may not know you were exposed, because the symptoms are usually like an ordinary cold.

robert_graham
robert_graham

I hope everybody at the Phoenix New Times would catch Valley Fever.  I've been told that people in that neighboorhood have come down sick with it including three people at Pilgrim Rest got sick with it.

JohnQ.Public
JohnQ.Public

And every so often some like JAF has a full on conniption requiring treatment of some sort. The parallels are uncanny.

WhoKnows
WhoKnows topcommenter

@valleynative I actually heard that if lived here for 3 years, you'd test positive, as with most folks, it's only very mild symptoms.  I do have a friend that almost died from it, and was told by his doc that he should move out of state, as with him, it could keep coming back.

valleynative
valleynative

@david_saint01 It's probably best to try to ignore him.  Feel free to remind me of that when I slip and respond to him, myself.

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