About Scaryair.org

Now that we've got your attention, we'd like to introduce you to what Valley Fever really is. Never heard of Valley Fever? Maybe you heard that Valley Fever is a killer. Or that it is no big thing. Whatever you've heard, read on.

ScaryAir.org was developed by the Valley Fever Center for Excellence at the University of Arizona to put Valley Fever in perspective. It's a complicated problem for Arizona because it is so many things to so many people.

Signs & Symptoms
of Valley Fever

More than 60% of people infected with Valley Fever don't know it. They may experience mild flu-like symptoms or no symptoms at all and recover with no medical diagnosis or treatment.

When symptoms are present, they generally show up between one to three weeks from exposure and inhalation of the fungal spore. Symptoms may by similar to those of other common illnesses.

Pneumonia-like symptoms include:

  • Cough
  • Chest Pain
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Coughing Blood

Other symptoms may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Profuse Night-Sweating
  • Loss of Appetite
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Weight Loss
  • Headache
  • Muscle and Joint Aches
    (often in ankles and knees)
  • Painful Red Bumps that Turn Brown (often on shins and forearms)
  • Skin Lesions
  • Vomiting
  • Stiff Neck
  • Central Nervous System Disturbances

If you, a friend, a loved one or a pet experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor or vet and ask to be tested for Valley Fever. Valley Fever can only be determined by a laboratory test ordered by a doctor.

Treatment of
Valley Fever

In the majority of cases, the immune system is able to control the infection on its own. In those persons, treatment may be unnecessary, and infection produces an immunity that protects them from future infections for the rest of their lives.

For people or pets that do need treatment, there are antifungal drugs that can be given orally or by vein to control the fungus and its symptoms. In cases where Valley Fever has created abscesses in the skin, lungs, bones or joints, surgery may be required to remove or drain infected areas. While the antifungal medications or naturally developed immunity can control an infection, there is presently no cure for Valley Fever.

A Giant Dust Storm Engulfs Phoenix.

The Phoenix Haboob of July 5th, 2011 from Mike Olbinski on Vimeo.


What is Valley Fever?

Valley Fever is caused by inhaling spores of a fungus that grows in regions of the Southwestern United States, including Maricopa, Pinal, and Pima Counties in Arizona.

It is estimated that there are about 150,000 infections of Valley Fever in the southwestern U.S. each year. Approximately one-third of these result in a self-limited, although often protracted, respiratory illness. In a small percentage of people the illness is even more serious and potentially lethal. People who have other existing illnesses or a compromised immune system are more susceptible to these complications.

In people and animals, initial infection occurs when a spore is inhaled. Within the lung, the spore changes into a larger, multicellular structure called a spherule. The spherule grows and bursts, releasing endospores, which develop into spherules. Valley Fever symptoms generally occur within three weeks of exposure. Valley Fever is not a "contagious" disease, meaning it is not passed from person to person. Second infections are rare.

Find out more about Valley Fever in the "People" Section.

Each year, 100,000 new infections occur in Arizona citizens. This is two out three Valley Fever infections for the entire United States. Some people get very sick. How about the risk of dust storms like the one shown in the video. Some people die from Valley Fever. Pretty scary!

Numbers matter and these are Arizona's numbers:

  • Three-quarters of workers with Valley Fever could not return for more than one month;
  • Half were sick for more than six months;
  • One quarter needed more than 10 doctor visits to manage their illness;
  • 40% required hospitalization;
  • 30 - 40 Arizonans die from Valley Fever each year;
  • In 2007 alone, hospital costs were $86 million;
  • The overall medical and economic impact could easily be $200 million or greater.

Animals other than people, especially dogs, are even more likely to develop Valley Fever.

Animals, especially dogs, are even more likely to develop Valley Fever.

On the other hand, most people who become infected do not become sick and don't even know it. Well over half of persons who do become sick never get a correct diagnosis, get better on their own, and never get it again. At this website, we hope to help everyone understand that Valley Fever is a very important public health problem to Arizona and that much more needs to be done about it. It also is a problem to control, not to fear.