The Silent Epidemic Facing Down the American Southwest
With all the ink spilled on MERS of late, it’s easy to forget that other communicable diseases are making quiet inroads as well. None of these is quite so successful as valley fever, or Coccidioidomycosis, a fungal infection that can spread throughout the body, including spinal fluid and the brain. The CDC estimates valley fever claims about 160 lives a year and infects 20,000 more, mostly in California and Arizona.
The New York Times recently described some working theories on how cocci spreads:
Numbers spike when rainfall is followed by dry spells. Many scientists believe that the uptick in infections is related to changing climate patterns. Kenneth K. Komatsu, the state epidemiologist for Arizona, where 13,000 cases were reported last year, said that another factor may be urban sprawl: “digging up rural areas where valley fever is growing in the soil,” he said.
It is a provocative notion, to be sure. Others have proposed different theories, fingering industrial waste and pollution as prime culprits.
No matter what underlies the spread of valley fever, it remains an incurable disease and a dangerous threat to the health of many immunocompromised persons. Cocci can be managed if caught early, so be sure and brush up on these warning signs. For further information about valley fever or any other respiratory disease, contact an expert ENT today.