Marana town government is joining the effort to educate citizens and health care providers about Valley Fever, the fungus-caused infection concentrated in the Desert Southwest.
On March 15, the Marana Town Council adopted a proclamation on behalf of the Valley Fever Center for Excellence at the University of Arizona. Specifically, the council joined the Valley Fever Corridor Project, a public awareness campaign that’s also designed to create a medical network of people who know how to diagnose and manage the disease.
Each year in the United States, 50,000 new cases of Valley Fever are referred to health care professionals. Two-thirds of those cases originate in three Arizona counties – Pima, Pinal and Maricopa.
Valley Fever causes one-third of the pneumonia cases in those counties. And two of three people stricken by Valley Fever are misdiagnosed by clinicians, according to the Valley Fever Center for Excellence.
“This disease really affects a whole lot of people,” UA associate vice president Jaime Gutierrez told the town council. “Sometimes, they don’t know much about it.”
“We do the best we can to cope with this disease,” said Dr. John Galgiani, director of the Valley Fever Center for Excellence. “It’s considered an ‘orphan disease,’” with fewer than 200,000 cases a year in the U.S. “But it’s so concentrated here, it’s much more endemic. If we don’t do something about it, most people won’t know what it is.”
The center, established in 1996 at the UA College of Medicine in Tucson, aims to teach health care professionals in the region “essential information about Valley Fever, and to develop a skilled network of health care providers to manage Valley Fever,” according to its website, http://vfce.arizona.edu.
In 2007, Valley Fever created hospitalization costs of more than $86 million. The disease causes an estimated 100 deaths a year.
Mayor Ed Honea gave his specific support; he told the audience he had Valley Fever as a child.
What is Valley Fever?
Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis) is primarily a lung disease common in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. It is caused by the fungus Coccidioides sp., which grows in soils in areas of low rainfall, high summer temperatures, and moderate winter temperatures. These fungal spores become airborne when the soil is disturbed by winds, construction, farming and other activities.
Valley Fever infections are more likely to occur during certain seasons. In Arizona, the highest prevalence of infection occurs in June, July, October and November.
There are an estimated 50,000 Valley Fever infections in the U.S. each year. Two-thirds of those are in Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties. In one-third of people, the result is a self-limited, though often protracted, respiratory illness. In a small percentage, the illness is more serious and potentially lethal.
Valley Fever symptoms generally occur within three weeks of exposure. Valley Fever is not a contagious disease. Second infections are rare.
Many domestic and native animals are susceptible to the disease, including dogs, horses, cattle, sheep, burros, coyotes, rodents, bats and snakes.
Source: The Valley Fever Center for Excellence