The Arizona Air Can Make You Sick…Literally
What is Valley Fever?
Valley Fever, or Coccidioidomycosis, is an ailment in the lungs that is common throughout the lower Arizona deserts. It is caused by a fungus which grows in the dirt of the desert floor and become airborne when the soil is disturbed by dust storms, construction, farming and other activities. Once infected, the victim will have symptoms such as fatigue, cough, chest pain, fever, rash, headache and joint aches. Surprisingly, most people who become ill with Valley Fever do not seek medical attention because the symptoms are similar to other common ailments such as the cold or flu. It is estimated over 60% of infected people have either no symptoms or experience flu-like symptoms and never seek medical attention.
Valley Fever Cases On The Rise
In 2011, there were 6,000 confirmed cases of Valley Fever in Maricopa County alone. I was one of those unfortunate souls who suffered from this terrible sickness, but I will go more into that later. Keep in mind that 6,000 cases are those who sought medical treatment (the 40%), while 60% of cases never seek medical attention or do not realize they’ve been infected.
According to the Valley Fever Center For Excellence, there were about 2,500 more cases of Valley Fever in 2011 than in 2010. Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine describes Valley Fever as a “regional epidemic” and says Arizona is “at the heart of where this disease is in the country. The full article can be found here.
Treatment For Valley Fever
There is absolutely no cure for Valley Fever. Researchers are currently working on a vaccine, but as for now the only prevention for Valley Fever is simply not being in the valley. The severity of the infection affects how sick you will be and how long treatment will last. It may take months to even more than a year to resolve. Victims of Valley Fever often experience fatigue and joint aches for months. Some patients take antifungal medication for a few months; others need life time therapy.
Approximately 5% of cases of Valley Fever pneumonia (infection of the lungs) result in the development of nodules in the lung. These nodules are small areas of infection, typically one to one and a half inches in diameter. On a chest x-ray, these nodules resemble lung cancer, which is another scare in itself.
Who’s At Risk For Valley Fever?
“Anyone who lives in, visits, or travels through the endemic area may contract Valley Fever.”
Valley Fever does not care about your race, religion, sexual orientation or even if you’re human! Many people have lost their pets to this disease. Pretty much anyone who has been to Arizona is at risk, even the people who stop here for a layover at the airport.
Video: Dust Storm In Action
This video is real, and not made by Hollywood. These types of storms happen at least 4-5 times a year and are very common. We get more storms like this than we do rain storms…as a matter of fact, I can’t remember what rain is.
Video: Information About Valley Fever
I contracted Valley Fever in 2011, and I was out of work for 7-8 weeks. With the word “fever” in it, you would expect there to be a fever. However, since it’s not a virus there is no fever. It is a mold spore growing inside of your body, and it just makes you feel like total crap.
Imagine staying up all night and experiencing that tired feeling you get after about 24 hours of being awake. That is how Valley Fever made me feel ALL the time. I felt inhuman and had NO energy, even for the simplest of tasks! When it was time to go to the restroom, I would have to lay there and gather my energy and perform “the task” as quickly as possible. Afterwards, I would collapse back into my bed.
Valley Fever has a way of fooling you into thinking you’re feeling better. My mind began thinking because I had a little bit of energy that I must be getting better, so I would do a chore like take out the trash or clean some dishes. Valley Fever became very angry and sucked my energy back out of my body and forced me to lay down for another two days. It is important to not try to exert yourself while sick with Valley Fever.
The scariest thing about Valley Fever are all the X-Rays and CT scans I had to take and having nodules show up. The doctor told me it could either be an infection from Valley Fever or lung cancer. Because lung cancer looks similar on scans, he had to tell me that. This was several months ago, and I’m waiting to go back to get another X-Ray to make sure the nodule is gone. If it’s still there, then it may very well be cancer. Most likely, it’s not because of all the symptoms I was experiencing.
The good news about this is I’ll never contract Valley Fever again, unless something happens to my immune system. If I were to contract HIV or go through chemotherapy, my weak immune system would allow Valley Fever to re-emerge. I was told it will always be with me (much like The Force, I guess), but it will be dormant unless my immune system weakens.
By the time I contracted Valley Fever, I had already decided in my heart that I hate Arizona. This disease solidified my hate for Arizona and my desire to leave this hell on earth. My wife, who really wants to stay here, said, “Great, another reason for you to hate Arizona.”
Damn right, I hate Arizona with a passion. I will fully admit this blog is subjective and slanted, but I will not LIE or make up things which are not true about Arizona.
Read on, because herein lies the truth about Arizona.
No Arizona provides information about Arizona and reveals the truth about life in the desert based on facts and observations.
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