Valley Fever for Humans, Pets, Facts and Myths

Dr. Donovan


On Monday July 24, Fariba Donovan, MD, PhD presented Updates in Coccidioidomycosis, sometimes known and California fever, desert rheumatism, San Joaquin Valley Fever, and here in Arizona, Valley Fever. Valley Fever is a fungal disease that affects some mammals including humans, dogs, and cats. Dr. Donovan is a research scientist at the University of Arizona Valley Fever Center of Excellence. The presentation was at Health Night here in SaddleBrooke at the Desert View Performing Arts Center.

Symptoms for humans include a cough, chest pain, fever, fatigue, weight loss, bone and joint pain, skin rashes, and painful or intense itching. Not everyone gets a rash. The course of the illness runs from weeks to months, with one-third getting pneumonia.

Each year there are about 1,000 new medical licenses issued in Arizona. Of those, 12 percent received their MD in Arizona. Forty percent are not from Arizona and according to Dr. Donovan related that 80% don’t know about what Valley Fever is and how it presents. If you have this set of symptoms, be sure to get checked for Valley Fever.

Nearly half of all Valley Fever patients have a delayed diagnosis. First you might get treated with antibiotics. This doesn’t work because the disease is a fungal disease. You may eventually get a CT Scan, and PET scan, and biopsies. In Arizona, Valley Fever is common and should be in the differential for cough, chest pain, fever, and fatigue. There is a blood test that can be used to diagnose Valley Fever, BUT, Valley Fever may not show up on the first test if you are tested too early or too late during the life cycle of the fungus. Multiple tests may be required to confirm a Valley Fever diagnosis.

The fungus lives about three inches below the surface in the soil. It is everywhere, especially in the corridor between Phoenix and Tucson. When it is hot and dry, it is most likely to infect people. Pieces of the mycelium break off and go into the lung. A piece of the mycelium grows into a sphere and ruptures. That is when the symptoms become apparent. Nearly 2/3 of all cases of Valley Fever occur in this corridor that we call home.

Your pets, both dogs and cats, can be susceptible to Valley Fever. According to the news, we can expect a vaccination for dogs later this calendar year. After the dog vaccine reaches the market, the researchers are hoping for a human vaccine. The development of this vaccine can cost millions of dollars, but the process is starting at the University of Arizona Valley Fever Center of Excellence.

Vaccine is on the way!

Dr. Donovan works at the University of Arizona Valley Fever Center of Excellence. Their organization is changing the way Arizona clinicians recognize and manage patients with Valley Fever. For more information take a look at the web site for VFCE.

http://Home Page | Valley Fever Center for Excellence (

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