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Valley fever is on the rise in the West. Here’s what happens to you

What is valley fever? And how does it impact you?

The Virgin River winds near Virgin, Washington County.
The Virgin River winds through the desert near Virgin, Washington County, on Friday, April 9, 2021.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

The Western United States has become hotter and drier in recent years. But those aren’t the problems that plague the region — there’s also valley fever.

Valley fever — called coccidioidomycosis — is an infection from a fungus that’s known to live in the Southwestern U.S..

Is valley fever on the rise?

A new report from Grist suggests that valley fever is on the rise. Data suggested that cases are rising year after year.

  • “In most states where the disease is endemic, public health departments have been slow to grasp and advertise the breadth and potential impact of the illness, experts say, and the federal government could be doing more to fund research into a cure or vaccine for the infection,” according to Grist.
  • Climate change might be playing a role, too. Per Grist, the recent weather patterns and seasonal conditions have created more of the coccidioides, leading to more cases.

How do you get valley fever?

People can get the fever by breathing in the fungal spores through the air. However, most people don’t get sick.

  • Those who do get sick often need weeks or months to recover.
  • “It’s difficult to prevent exposure to coccidioides in areas where it’s common in the environment, but people who are at higher risk for severe valley fever should try to avoid breathing in large amounts of dust if they’re in these areas,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What are valley fever symptoms?

The symptoms for valley fever aren’t too different from a common cold, COVID-19 or the flu, honestly. Per the CDC, valley fever symptoms include:

  • Tiredness.
  • Cough.
  • Fever.
  • Shortness of breath.
  • Headache.
  • Muscle aches.

How do you stop valley fever?

Doctors will often prescribe antifungal medication to reduce the severity of symptoms in those severe cases, according to CDC.

  • “If you have valley fever, you should talk to your health care provider about whether you need treatment. The health care provider who diagnoses you with valley fever may suggest that you see other health care providers who specialize in treating valley fever,” the CDC said.