/ Modified jul 19, 2011 12:55 p.m.

Danger in the Wind

Dust storms, like the haboob that recently struck Maricopa County, may drive an increase in this summer's number of Valley Fever cases

Valley Fever 617x347 Dr. John N. Galgiani, director of the Valley Fever Center for Excellence, discusses the connection between dust storms and the fungal infection. (PHOTO: AZPM)

Newcomers to Arizona may have heard warnings about the threat of contracting valley fever, which is a fungal disease of the lungs that is common in the southwestern U.S. and northwestern Mexico.

Two-thirds of all valley fever infections in the U.S. occur in Arizona, mostly in the urban areas surrounding Phoenix and Tucson.

Although fatal in less than one percent of cases, valley fever can have serious repercussions on the health of any animals or people who contract it. And research indicates that the number of infections may be on the rise this year due to high winds and dust storms, as they are most responsible for spreading the microbes that cause the infection.

Many new residents have numerous questions about the illness, including how they can best protect their family and their pets. Dr. John N. Galgiani is a world-recognized valley fever expert who is working to replace worry about the infection with information.

He is the director of the Valley Fever Center for Excellence, located at the University of Arizona, which was established to address the problems caused by the fungus coccidioides, the root cause of coccidioidomycosis (valley fever). He joins Arizona Illustrated to discuss the link between dust storms and the disease, and what residents can do to minimize their risk.

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