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Monsoon season increases risk of exposure to Valley Fever, doctors warn

 

Medical experts offer advice to avoid infection and recognize symptoms

MESA, Ariz. (July 25, 2013) -- Cases of Valley Fever can increase significantly during the monsoon season, and Banner Health is working to raise public awareness of ways to avoid exposure, as well as to educate on the signs and symptoms of this potentially serious infection.

Valley Fever is an infection caused by the fungus Coccidioides that is acquired by inhaling the airborne spores of that fungus. Risk of inhaling these airborne spores increases with the dust storms that occur during the monsoon season. Thus, folks in Arizona are at higher risk for acquiring Valley Fever during these these storms.

“Anyone can get Valley Fever, including children,” said Dr. Edward Carter, Chief of the Pulmonary Division of Cardon Children’s Medical Center. “That is why it is especially important to avoid going outside during a dust storm, and also to seek medical treatment if you experience symptoms of the infection, which include cough, fatigue, fever,  muscle aches, chest pain, and rash.”

“Persons unable to get indoors during a dust storm should cover their nose and mouth with a shirt or similar type of cloth,” Dr. Carter said. “For those who are driving in a vehicle, switching the air conditioner to recirculate can reduce the amount of dust that gets into the car.”

The reported cases of Valley Fever in Arizona have been increasing since it became laboratory-reportable in 1997. A recent study, which involved the Arizona Department of Health Services, found that the number of cases increased from 1,474 in 1998 to 16,467 in 2011 -- an average increase of about 16 percent each year for more than the past decade.

“About one-third of persons infected have significant illness, which can range from minor flu-like symptoms to severe pneumonia and meningitis,” Dr. Carter said. “Symptoms usually develop within 7 to 28 days after exposure.” However, about two-thirds of people who get the infection really have no serious symptoms that cause them to seek medical attention. They recover uneventfully, often without even knowing they were ever infected.

For more information on Valley Fever from the Arizona Department of Health Services.

About Cardon Children’s Medical Center
Cardon Children’s Medical Center provides pediatric care for children, from newborns to teens. Services include Emergency care, a Level III neonatal intensive care unit, general pediatrics, surgical and rehabilitation services, hematology/oncology, urology, gastroenterology, neurology, Pediatric Pulmonology and Pediatric Intensive care, outpatient services and children’s wellness community education. For more information, visit www.BannerHealth.com/CardonChildrens.

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