Dust storm season means more risk of getting Valley Fever

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It’s dust storm season and that poses medical concerns when it comes to Valley Fever. We spoke to Dr. Brian Mochon of Sonora Quest about what Valley Fever is, how to know when you have it, and how best to avoid it.

“Valley Fever is an interesting one. It’s a fungus, it’s endemic to Arizona, and to the San Joaquin Valley of California. And interestingly enough, in Arizona, you tend to see a really high number of growth after a really strong rain,” Mochon said.

How do you know if you have Valley Fever?

“Valley Fever for most people–they’re exposed, they have an infection, and then you won’t even know you’ve had it. The other portion of people the other third to 50% depending on the study, will have symptoms very similar to influenza, and so it’s one of those things where you might have fever, chills, fatigue, cough,” Mochon said.

Are long-time Arizona residents often exposed to this fungus?

“People that are lived in the endemic areas, quite quickly become exposed, and most people, you know, if they’re immunocompetent or have a strong immune system… we’ll either not have any symptoms, and then they have long term immunity, but they will have some level of immune response to the coccidioidomycosis,” Mochon said.

Why are the symptoms worse sometimes?

“So someone who’s… in a ‘haboob’, and they’ve inhaled a large amount of dust particles that have that Cocci in it, the larger that load of fungi, the more likely you are to have a more apparent symptoms,” Mochon said.

I think in all cases if you had a positive result you’d want to talk to your primary care physician, I think some of the biggest concerns would be, you know, there’s, you know there’s been some it’s controversial some literature but there has been shown to that there are certain populations of individuals so those that have like African or Filipino heritage or ancestry, have shown to have a more severe response to it, women that are in their first trimester of pregnancy, have been more prone to getting ill and then, like I mentioned before, if you’re immunosuppressed. That’s also a population of concern. So, you know,

Who is at risk for this illness?

Mochon mentioned that there are a few demographics that have tended to be hit harder with symptoms of this fungal infection. Those within the African or Filipino heritage or ancestry have had a more severe response to it as well as women in their first trimester of pregnancy. He also noted that if you are immunosuppressed, you could be prone to getting this illness.

“In most cases you’re probably going to be okay, but I think with any positive result you’re gonna want to have a conversation, with a physician about next steps,” Mochon said.

Dr. Brian Mochon, System Medical Director, Sonora Quest Laboratories

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