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

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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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley