Start to monsoon season raises concerns of Valley Fever

Phoenix Dust Storm
Posted at 4:51 AM, Jun 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-27 16:05:37-04

Living in the Valley means being aware of Valley Fever. It develops from spores in our dirt and is often stirred up during monsoon season.

Both people and pets can breathe it in, causing an infection in the lungs.

Arizona Animal Welfare League helped introduce ABC15 to Raja.

The little dog, now between three and five years old, was brought to AAWL from a partner shelter.

No one knew how long she had been a stray, and on of her list of many health issues was a severe case of Valley Fever.

“The first few months at home were very difficult because she had no energy,” said Raja’s foster dad Bob Kroll. “She would basically lie in bed all day, all night.”

“Valley fever is a fungus and it’s in spores that are in the dirt,” said Director Marketing and Communications for AAWL, Kimberly Vermillion. “So those spores form when it rains and then they can be picked up by wind and can be inhaled.”

According to the CDC, most people who breathe in the spores don’t get sick. But there are some that do, and both pets and humans can develop breathing issues.

There can be more serious consequences if cases are left untreated.

In 2020, the Arizona Department of Health Services reported over 11,000 cases of Valley Fever.

So far in 2022, the ADHS has reported more than 4,500.

Since pets can’t vocalize how they feel, it’s important for owners to watch for symptoms.

“You want to keep an eye out for harsh cough, fever, lack of appetite. If your dog is just not acting themselves, [or] maybe some limping,” said Vermillion.

For pets, Vermillion said the treatment can be pretty easy and inexpensive if caught early.

She told ABC15, that typically symptoms show up within about three weeks.

But Raja’s case was very advanced.

“It was one of the worst ones we’ve ever seen,” said Vermillion.

10 months after being fostered, Raja is still getting treatments.

“It was a very gradual and slow process, but she’s come a long way,” said Kroll.

She’s now walking and playing for longer, but her case of Valley Fever was so severe it’s impacted her bones.

“Her leg is hurting today so she’s having a hard time,” said Kroll as he watched Raja try to run after a ball.

“Raja still has a long way to go to see what her outcome is, but she is definitely a different dog than she was a year ago,” said Vermillion.

Her foster family doesn’t know what’s next, but no matter what they aren’t giving up on their four-legged friend.