Healthy Dose Blog Takes Aim at Valley Fever for Fungal Disease Awareness Week

Truck with dust trail driving through desert - Getty Images

By Valerie Schaibley, PhD, and Kenneth S. Ramos, MD, PhD, PharmB | Center for Applied Genetics & Genomic Medicine, UA Health Sciences

In the desert soils of Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Utah a disease is living right under foot, and researchers at UA are trying to find ways to fight it! Older man coughing with doctor - Getty Images

Coccidioidomycosis, or “cocci” for short, is the medical term for Valley fever, an infectious disease that affects thousands of people in Arizona every year. Cocci is caused by a fungus, called coccidioides spp., living in the soil of areas that receive little rainfall, with hot summers and mild winters.

Valley fever is one of the most commonly reported infectious diseases in Arizona, and the number of people infected has been increasing in recent years. Most cases of Valley fever clear up without serious complications. However, Valley fever can be deadly. According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, 57 people in Arizona died in 2016 from Valley fever.

EXTRA INFO: Fungal Disease Awareness Week

Healthy Dose logo with Fungal Disease Awareness Week promos from CDCThis topic is rather timely as it coincides with national Fungal Disease Awareness Week, Oct. 1-5, 2018. Some fungal diseases go undiagnosed and cause serious infections in people around the world, leading to illness and death. Increased awareness is one of the most important ways we can improve early recognition and reduce delays in diagnosis and treatment. A key clue to when a sick person may have a fungal infection is, when treated with medications for other types of infection, he or she does not get better. We encourage healthcare providers and their patients to “Think Fungus” when symptoms of infection do not improve with treatment. Learn more at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention:

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You'll see this blogpost listed under: "Danger in the Dust: Valley Fever"

People get Valley fever by breathing in fungal spores that travel through the air when the soil is disturbed. Valley fever is not passed from person to person. Only people who are exposed to cocci by inhaling one of the fungal spores from dust can get Valley fever. Although more than half of the people with cocci exposure never develop any signs of the disease, about 40 percent of people will get sick. Symptoms can range from weeks to months of debilitating symptoms, considered the “mild” form of the disease, to rare, much more severe illnesses where the disease spreads to other parts of the body, sometimes causing life-threatening complications. And because symptoms mimic those of the flu – fatigue, cough, fever – doctors may mistake Valley fever for other diagnoses. The diagnosis becomes challenging when people travel away from affected areas to regions of the country where the disease is less prevalent and often less recognized.

Dr. John Galgiani“More than one-third of all cases of pneumonia in Arizona are actually Valley fever,” says John Galgiani, MD, a physician and professor of medicine in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of Arizona Colleges of Medicine in Tucson and Phoenix, and medical director of the Banner – University Medicine Valley Fever Program. “One of the strongest tools we have to combat Valley fever is education, both to patients and to health-care providers.”

Dr. Galgiani also is director of the UA Valley Fever Center for Excellence (VFCE)...

READ ON for full blogpost

About the Authors:

Dr. Valerie SchaibleyValerie Schaibley, PhD, is the administrator for the Center for Applied Genetics and Genomic Medicine at the University of Arizona Health Sciences, where she works to advance precision health in the state of Arizona. She received her doctorate in Human Genetics from the University of Michigan and worked for several years in industry, developing genetic tests for precision medicine applications. 

Dr. Kenneth RamosKenneth S. Ramos, MD, PhD, PharmB, is associate vice president for precision health sciences at the University of Arizona Health Sciences, director of the Center for Applied Genetics and Genomic Medicine and the MD-PhD Program, professor of medicine in the Division of Pulmonary, Allergy, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, and a member of the National Academy of Medicine.

NOTE TO MEDIA: For educational pamphlets, brochures, images and graphics related to Valley fever—as well as contact information for University of Arizona faculty knowledgeable about the illness—visit the following webpage: UA Expertise on Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis)

“New UA/Banner Health Valley Fever Clinical Guidance Designed to Avert Diagnoses Delays” | Posted Oct. 8, 2018
“UA Valley Fever Center, ADHS, Tucson’s Pueblo High Host Youth Awareness Poster Contest” | Posted Oct. 5, 2018

Release Date: 
10/04/2018 - 10:45am
Original Story: