Dust storms are a norm across the Valley, but with the dust swirling around the air many people don’t realize that it can potentially lead to contracting Valley Fever.
According to the WebMD website, Valley Fever is a disease caused by a fungus that gets into your body through the lungs from fungus inside soil.
Ahwatukee resident Richie Laser first contracted Valley Fever in March when he was in his backyard watching a dust storm go across his neighborhood.
He began running a fever for a few days and was suffering from chest pains.
“I didn’t think at all it was something that had to do with the heart, I thought it was a respiratory thing. It wasn’t a typical cold that I would normally get, it was a chest pain right in the center,” he said.
Laser was concerned about the unknown feeling and thought he had contracted pneumonia, never considering he had Valley Fever.
“At that time I didn’t even know what Valley Fever was,” he said.
The pain became unbearable for Laser, so he visited an urgent care where they diagnosed him with pneumonia.
“Once the wind is blowing and the dust is in the air that’s how you get it,” Laser said. “There are about 150,000 cases each year… 30 percent of pneumonia is really Valley Fever, but the only way to detect it is through a blood test. The problem is when you go to a doctor with symptoms, it is one of the last things they check for and they wind up treating it incorrectly.”
Laser was mistreated incorrectly and was given different antibiotics that weren’t helping his body fight off the disease.
“The good thing for me, and this is the dangerous part, I found out soon. There are people who are walking around with it, just as they do with pneumonia, and they don’t go to the doctors,” he said.
Laser is still getting over Valley Fever and said there were times throughout the day he continued to feel fatigued.
Dr. Kenneth Pettit, of Comprehensive Family Care in Ahwatukee, said that Valley Fever is a disease that’s primarily found in the dust in the air.
“It’s not passed from person to person… you can’t transmit it. It’s not one of those things that are contagious, it’s one of those things that are in the environment that you get exposed to,” he said. “It’s kind of a year-round thing that you can have the exposure… In the winter time it’s a little less likely because of the rain and the monsoon season.”
People who contract Valley Fever may have symptoms similar to the flu such as fever, chills, chest pain, a dry cough and a rash.
“One of the ways you can try to minimize your chance of exposure is staying inside when a dust storm comes by. A lot of people from Arizona have come across Valley Fever to some degree, but clinically they’re not sick,” Pettit said. “It’s something that seems like a cold or a cough for a few days, but really you get it and then it’s gone. Unfortunately, once in a while you can have someone who gets it and it sits inside their lungs and they get pneumonia, and that sometimes can lead to hospitalization.”
The incubation period, the time from contracting the disease to showing symptoms; typically begin one to three weeks.
According to the WebMD website, most people who have contracted Valley Fever typically get better over time without any type of treatment.
In some severe cases, a doctor may prescribe a patient anti fungal medicine if their conditions continue to worsen.
There is no medicine to prevent Valley Fever, but people are advised to stay in their homes during dust storms.
People can consult their family doctor about Valley Fever, and can be tested for the disease through a simple blood test.
For more information, visit www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/valley-fever-topic-overview.
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