Via Tucson News Now: Experts don't believe dust storms increase Valley Fever cases. Click through for the full report and a video news clip. Excerpt:
As always, high winds increase dust in the air and that makes some people wonder if those wind storms are creating more cases of Valley Fever.
Valley Fever is a disease caused when we inhale a fungus that lives in the desert soil. Almost all Valley Fever cases in this country are in the Southwest. About 60% are in three Arizona counties: Pima, Pinal and Maricopa.
When the soil is stirred up by something, like construction, the fungus can go airborne. That's how we can end up inhaling it.
However, researchers say dust and wind aren't all there is to Valley Fever, and just because we're having windy, dusty days doesn't mean we'll see a spike in cases.
"Individual dust storms generally don't seem to be a big factor in Valley Fever cases because we don't see big spikes in Valley Fever right afterwards, and because the kind of soil that gets stirred up in a dust storm tends to be the sort of loose top soil you get from river bottoms or from construction sites--not usually the kinds of places that Valley Fever's hanging out," says University of Arizona Climate and Health researcher, Dr. Andrew Comrie.
He says Valley Fever usually appears during the drier months of the year.
Comrie says it's not only Valley Fever we should be concerned about when the dust storms hit because it's also unhealthy to breathe dust.
Only a small number of people get sick enough to require treatment with anti-fungal drugs.
Most people who do get Valley Fever will not even know it or will have mild symptoms their own bodies can handle.
"Most patients that come to seek clinical attention come because of symptoms of pneumonia. Of those patients, the minority of them actually have Valley Fever as a primary cause of the pneumonia. And, interestingly, the majority of them do not need to be treated. However, it is very important to identify those patients because perhaps half of them don't need to be treated and the other half may need to be treated," says Tucson Medical Center Internist and Pulmonologist Dr. Ives de Chazal.
Dr. de Chazal says, in very rare cases, the disease can spread to other parts of the body and cause death.
He says there are certain people who are more susceptible to Valley Fever. They include those with a weakened immune system, pregnant women, people with uncontrolled diabetes.
The University of Arizona Valley Fever Center for Excellence also lists African Americans and Asians. The website says "The reasons why some racial groups are at higher risk are not completely understood but may have to do with genetics."
"Classically, a patient that will present with pneumonia will present with fever, chills, respiratory symptoms, such as cough. But also some other systemic symptoms--maybe more subtle. Fatigue, night sweats, joint aches, skin rash perhaps. Those are the classic presentations of Valley Fever," Dr. de Chazal says.