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CDC Study: Valley Fever Cases Increasing Dramatically

Mar 28, 2013

Dust storms can carry millions of spores from the fungus that causes valley fever.
Credit Craig Kohlruss / Just One Breath - Reporting On Health Collaborative / The Fresno Bee

Cases of valley fever are climbing at stunning rates nationwide, and especially in California and Arizona, according to a new study released today by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The agency launched its analysis following the publication of the Reporting on Health Collaborative’s ‘Just One Breath’ series on valley fever. Valley Public Radio is a member of the partnership.

“What’s really interesting that we found is that the number of cases, the incidence of these cases, increased steadily throughout this time period, and really accelerated over the last few years,” said Dr. Benjamin Park is a medical officer for the CDC and an author of the report.

Park said more research is needed to understand why valley fever cases have increased dramatically nationwide – nearly 900 percent between 1998 and 2011.

He said the increase in cases highlights the need for greater awareness of the disease, especially true in valley fever hotspots. Of nearly 112,000 cases reported during the study period, 66 percent were in Arizona, and 31 percent were in California.

“This is an increasing problem in the southwestern United States, especially in California and Arizona, and physicians and patients need to be aware of this disease, especially if you live in one of these areas or have traveled to one of these areas,” Park said.

Park said the CDC is working with other health departments in the southwest to study the disease further.