Ways to Avoid Valley Fever in Arizona
Two-thirds of all Valley fever cases in the U.S. are reported from Arizona. And though it’s uncommon in most of the nation, that’s nearly 6,000 people, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services. With the number of cases continuing to rise, Valley fever cannot be ignored. It’s an infection caused by fungus that lives in the soil of dry areas, predominately found in the southwestern United States, that can lead to chronic illness. While contamination can happen by simply inhaling spores of the fungus, Valley fever (or coccidioidomycosis) cannot be spread from person to person.
It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of Valley fever, since it’s so easy to contract and hard to identify. And people most at risk—like those with a weakened immune system, adults 60 and older, pregnant women and those who work outdoors—should take special precaution. Common symptoms include:
- Fatigue or tiredness
- Night sweats
- Loss of appetite
- Chest pain, muscle and joint aches—especially at the ankles and knees
- Rash that resembles hives on shins or forearms
Even though 60% of people with Valley fever have only very mild or no signs of the infection, the flu-like symptoms make it difficult to correctly diagnose and treat. And while the majority of patients will see symptoms go away on their own, as many as 40% of people who get Valley fever are hospitalized. All this makes awareness and prevention of the disease so critical.
Reduce the Risk of Getting Valley Fever
Due to the fact that the fungus is in the soil and airborne, it’s hard to avoid exposure where Valley fever is common—Arizona, southern and central portions of California, and portions of Nevada, New Mexico, Texas and Utah. Here are four steps to take to help avoid contact with the disease.
- Cover your face. Wear masks when participating in outdoor activities where the fungus lives.
- Wet the soil. Avoid blowing or kicking up dust.
- Stick to your comfort zone. Stay inside during dust storms.
- Get informed. Learn the signs and symptoms of the disease, and if you feel like you may have the Valley fever, ask your doctor for a test.