Via Business Insider: A Horrific 'Silent Epidemic' Is Spreading Across the American Southwest. Excerpt:
Every year, there are about 150,000 cases of a disease whose impact in the deserts of the American Southwest "is equal to the impact of polio... before the vaccine," John Galgiani, an infectious-disease physician told Dana Goodyear.
Reported cases have increased tenfold between 1998 and 2011, "and in the most severe cases," Goodyear writes in The New Yorker, there is "no cure."
What is it?
A little-researched and little-known disease called valley fever (or "cocci"), which people can get when they inhale a fungus named Coccidioides immitis, found in dirt and dust. Two-thirds of cases occur in Arizona, where "in 2012, valley fever was the second-most-reported disease."
The fungus infects the lungs, but can also spread to the skin, bones, liver, brain, heart, and the membranes that protect the brain and spinal cord.
Sixty percent of people infected with valley fever show no symptoms, and even in those who do, it can resemble a simple flu and clears itself without treatment. But in some, specifically those patients in which the fungus spreads beyond the lungs, it is far worse.