You could have Valley Fever and not even know it.
Valley Fever annually infects thousands of Arizonans as well as 1 in 25 area dogs, often with absolutely no symptoms, University of Arizona’s Valley Fever Center for Excellence says.
Or Valley Fever can kill.
Gabby, an award-winning miniature schnauzer, lost her battle with Valley Fever Sept. 22, after fighting the disease for nearly half her life.
The 5-year-old Tucson show dog and dedicated pet was struck with Valley Fever two years ago. Even thousands of dollars worth of veterinary care could not stave off the disease that eventually led to Gabby’s kidney failure.
Valley Fever has no cure.
UA’s Valley Fever Center for Excellence aims to fix that, with funds raised for research with the Walk to Cure Valley Fever Oct. 10 at UA Mall. Sign-in starts at 8 a.m. and events run from 8:30 to 11 a.m. More details below or at www.vfever.org
The Dirt on Valley Fever
Beware when cleaning out that pack rat’s nest, racing through the desert on your ATV, digging for bones or otherwise playing around in Arizona soil, as Valley Fever comes from a fungus known as cocci, or coccidioidomycosis, that grows in dirt. The infection gets into the lungs when the fungus spores become airborne and we – or our pets – breathe it in.
The fungus cocci thrives in southern Arizona, with 80 percent of the 4 million people living in high-risk Valley Fever areas right here in Tucson and Phoenix.
Two-thirds of all Valley Fever cases are in Arizona, with Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties hit so hard they are known as the “Valley Fever Corridor.”
Parts of New Mexico, Texas, Nevada and Utah are also a prime cocci zone, as is California, from whence came its discovery and name of “San Joaquin Valley Fever.”
Arizona’s prime time to contact the disease is June and July, and then again in October and November.
Anyone who lives in or travels through Arizona or other areas with infected soil is at risk, especially pregnant women who have a lowered immune system during parts of their pregnancy.
Dogs are especially at risk for the disease, but it also preys on horses, sheep, cattle, coyotes, rodents, bats, snakes and other native species and pets.
Even if the disease is not fatal, it can make you or your pet quite sick.
Gabby was just one of Marianne’s 11 dogs that became infected with the disease in the past 18 years. Eight of them survived, but only after months and months of medication. Medications, Marianne said, that “are very hard on a dog’s liver, some with lingering side effects.”
About 60 percent of Valley Fever cases don’t show any symptoms or only slight symptoms that resemble the flu. Others suffer fatigue, cough, profuse night sweats, fever, appetite loss, chest pain and achy muscles and joints. Skin rashes that look like hives or measles also sometimes crop up.
Doctors use a blood test to diagnose the disease, which can turn chronic and linger for years. It is not contagious.
WALK TO CURE VALLEY FEVER
What: Tucson Walk to Cure Valley Fever
When: Oct. 10, 8 to 11 a.m.
Where: University of Arizona Mall
How much: Entry fee for walk $25, other entry fees for events vary.
Learn more or register online at vfever.org or call 626-6517
Event includes agility fun course for dogs, children’s craft area, Pup-cake contest and more. More details at vfever.org
Dogs welcome, of course (on leash and vaccinated, also of course)
172 new cases of Valley Fever in less than week
Arizona has seen an increase of 172 new confirmed and probable cases of Valley Fever from Sept. 16 to Sept. 23, the most recent data available from the state health department.
New cases in Pima County totaled 23, bringing the county’s total for the period between Jan. 3 to Sept. 23 to 906.
According to the recent update from the Office of Infectious Disease Services, Arizona Department of Health Services there have been 7,470 confirmed and probable cases of Valley Fever between the period of Jan. 3 to Sept. 23.
See complete report at: http://www.azdhs.gov/phs/oids/pdf/weekly.pdf.