What Is Valley Fever in Arizona? The Silent Killer.

Valley fever, otherwise known as coccidioidomycosis, is a fungal infection that has been classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as an endemic disease in certain parts of North, Central, and South America. Among these areas is Arizona, where it has been identified as a “silent killer” due to its ability to cause respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia and lung nodules, which can lead to chronic lung disease. In this article, we will be discussing what Valley Fever is and its impact on Arizona, as well as sharing some preventive measures and treatment options for those affected by this dangerous disease.

What is Valley Fever?

Valley fever is caused by Coccidioides fungi which exist in the soil of arid regions, including Arizona. When soil is disturbed, such as through construction, agricultural work, or even just high wind, the fungal spores are released into the air and can be inhaled by people and pets. Approximately 60% of people who contract valley fever will experience mild symptoms, while the remaining 40% will have more severe symptoms ranging from flu-like symptoms to chronic lung disease.

Common Symptoms of Valley Fever

Valley fever symptoms can take up to three weeks to appear after initial exposure. Common symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Chills
  • Night sweats
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath

Some important things to note are that the symptoms mimic those of other illnesses such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, and the flu, making it challenging to identify valley fever in patients. Also, it’s important to remember that some people may have no symptoms.

Who is Most at Risk for Valley Fever in Arizona?

People who live in or travel to areas such as Arizona that are endemic to Valley Fever are most at risk. Additionally, people who work in jobs that disturb the soil, including construction and agriculture, are at heightened risk of exposure. Certain demographics, such as people who have weakened immune systems, are also prone to more severe and even potentially fatal cases of the illness.

Diagnosis of Valley Fever

A medical professional will start by taking a patient’s medical history before performing a physical examination that includes a chest X-ray and blood tests. If the doctor suspects the patient of having valley fever or for confirmation, a coccidioidin skin test, sputum culture, or biopsy may be performed in some cases.

Prevention of Valley Fever

Prevention is essential when living in or visiting an endemic region like Arizona. Here are some tips to follow to minimize exposure:

  • Avoid outdoor activities when there are dust storms.
  • Wear a mask when working with soil, doing construction work or being outside on windy days.
  • Avoid disturbing the soil as much as possible.
  • Practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently to reduce the passing of the fungus to the mouth or nose.

Treatment for Valley Fever

Although there is no cure for this illness, its symptoms can be relieved through medication, rest, and handling the underlying causes of the condition. Additionally, those with weakened sexual or immune systems may be required to take an antifungal medication for several months.

The Impact of Valley Fever on Arizona

Arizona’s desert environment is an ideal breeding ground for coccidioidomycosis. According to data from the Arizona Department of Health Services, over the past decade, the state has experienced an average of ~7000 cases of Valley Fever annually. Furthermore, Valley fever accounted for nearly 5% of all Tucson hospitalizations in 2016, making it of great significance to people who live and work in the region.

Valley Fever and its Impact on Public Health in Arizona

Valley Fever is a significant public concern in Arizona. According to the Arizona Department of Public Health, the disease has caused an estimated $86 million in medical expenses and lost productivity since 2016. The disease is of great public concern in Arizona, and, as a result, the state’s government has implemented several measures to address this menace.

What is the Arizona Government Doing to Tackle Valley Fever?

The Arizona government institutions, including the Department of Health Services, have implemented numerous initiatives aimed at tackling this menace. Some of these initiatives are:

  • Educating the public about the illness and how to prevent it.
  • Promoting the research and development of vaccines and innovative therapies.
  • Working with homeowners and businesses to remove dust sources that cause the spread of the disease.

Valley Fever and its Impact on Agriculture in Arizona

Valley Fever not only affects human health but also affects Arizona’s agricultural sector. Coccidioides Fungus can affect a vast range of crops, including cotton and soybeans, causing significant yield losses. This fungus continues to arise as a major threat to both farm workers and the agricultural sector.

The Cost of Valley Fever on Agriculture

The cost of this disease on agriculture in the Grand Canyon State has become increasingly apparent over the years. According to the findings of a Kern County Grand Jury Investigation, just one Californian county, Kern County, loses approximately $12 million annually due to Valley Fever. Extrapolating that data to Arizona would mean hundreds of millions of dollars lost annually due to the disease.


In conclusion, Valley Fever poses a severe threat to the health of those living in or visiting regions where the disease is endemic. While it is challenging to identify the disease, prevention remains the most effective method of managing its spread. Additionally, more research and development of vaccines and antifungal therapies for future victims of this deadly disease are vital.

FAQs About Valley Fever in Arizona

Q. Can You Die from Valley Fever?

A. Yes, some people with valley fever will develop life-threatening conditions, while most people will experience mild flu-like symptoms that will go away without treatment.

Q. How Can You Contract Valley Fever in Arizona?

A. Valley fever is contracted by inhaling fungal spores that typically reside in soil. When the soil is disturbed, such as during high winds, the spores become airborne, and when inhaled, it can infect a person with the disease.

Q. Is Valley Fever Only Found in Arizona?

A. No, valley fever can be found in certain parts of the US, primarily in other arid regions such as New Mexico and California, and in certain countries in Latin America.

Q. What is the Typical Incubation Period for Valley Fever?

A. The typical incubation period for Valley Fever ranges from one to three weeks, whereby an infected person will start to show symptoms.

Q. How Can You Reduce Your Risk of Contracting Valley Fever in Arizona?

A. Reducing dust exposure is one of the most effective ways of reducing one’s risk of contracting this deadly disease, especially in the dry or windy months. Please check Arizona’s Department of Public Health website for more information on how to reduce your risk of contracting Valley Fever.


Arizona Department of Health Services. (2020). Coccidioidomycosis/Valley Fever.

CDC, (2021). Valley Fever – Symptoms, Causes, and Risk Factors.

Garcia, M., Pederick, J. E., Ampel, N. M., & Heidari, A. (2020). Vaccines for coccidioidomycosis. Expert Opinion on Biological Therapy, 20(1), 73-80. doi:10.1080/14712598.2020.1700599

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