A fungal infection is becoming an even bigger problem in Arizona and the Southwest, the CDC said in a new report.
The number of Valley fever cases in Arizona increased from 1,474 in 1998 to 16,467 in 2011, the CDC said.
Adjusting for changes in population demographics, this corresponds to a 16 percent a year increase during the study period, health experts said.
Between 1998 and 2011, nearly 112,000 cases of Valley fever were reported in 28 states and Washington, DC. Sixty percent of the cases occurred in Arizona. Thirty-one percent were reported in California.
The number of cases reported in Nevada, New Mexico and Utah combined increased from 72 in 1998 to 237 in 2011.
Valley fever is caused by inhaling a fungus that lives in soil in the Southwest. The fungus becomes airborne when the soil is disturbed.
When signs and symptoms do occur, they appear one to three weeks after exposure. They tend to resemble those of the flu and can range from minor to severe: fever, cough, chest pain, chills, night sweats, headache, fatigue, joint aches, and/or rash, according to Mayo Clinic.
Mayor Clinic says Valley fever, even when it's symptomatic, often clears on its own. Yet for older adults and others at high risk, recovery can be slow, and the risk of developing severe disease is high.
Seek medical care if you are in a high-risk group and develop the signs and symptoms of Valley fever, especially if you: live in or have recently traveled to an area where the disease is common or have symptoms that aren't improving.
Health experts say it's a good idea to watch your pets closely for symptoms because they can come down with Valley fever too.
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UPDATECDC: Valley fever in AZ up substantiallyMore>>
Symptoms are not unique to Valley Fever (acute coccidioidomycosis) and tend to resemble those of flu. Specific laboratory tests are used to identify Valley Fever. Fever Cough Chest pain — varying fromMore >
Symptoms are not unique to valley fever (acute coccidioidomycosis) and tend to resemble those of flu. Specific laboratory tests are used to identify valley fever. Fever Cough Chest pain — varying fromMore >