Changing weather bringing more cases of Valley Fever to Arizona

PHOENIX - Dust storms created by our monsoon storms also create huge air quality problems for us.

Sometimes that dust can linger for days and people with respiratory issues can definitely feel it.

But all of us need to watch out for the long-term effects on our health.

Dust storms stir up tiny fungal spores in our desert and breathing them can be harmful to your health.

In some cases it can even cause people to develop Valley Fever.

According to Dr. John Galgiani, Director of the University of Arizona's Valley Fever Center for Excellence, the symptoms are very similar to other respiratory illnesses or pneumonia.

"Cough, chest pain, fever as the name implies, is very common, drenching night sweats," Galgiani explained.

It sounds pretty miserable and according to Galgiani we live in the worst place in the country for Valley Fever.

Two-thirds of all Valley Fever infections happen right here in Arizona and out of those, 80 percent occur in Maricopa County.

"Fortunately, most people, whether it's diagnosed or not, or treated or not, get over it. It may take weeks or many months, but it's usually good news," Galgiani said. But a small percentage go on to have these very serious problems. There's approximately 400 of those a year in Arizona and approximately 100 deaths a year from this disease."

The worst year so far was 2011 with just under 16,000 cases reported.

It wasn't quite that bad last year, but it wasn't good either, with over 12,000 cases of Valley Fever.

While Galgiani does not believe our increased dust storms have directly caused the huge rise in Valley Fever cases over the last decade, he does believe that our changing weather patterns are to blame as our state becomes drier and dustier.

Women who are pregnant, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are at higher risk for the disease.

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