Man recounts his near-fatal experience with Valley Fever

As the monsoon season continues, so does the threat of Valley Fever, a disease that is caused by a fungus that is stirred up in the dust.

For one man, that disease almost killed him.

"I was on the verge of death," said Erwin Ntakirutinka. "The doctors told me I had about six hours left to live."

Erwin Ntakirutinka was diagnosed with Valley Fever, after dealing with symptoms for about a year.

"The headaches intensified, the fevers, and I also started throwing up," said Ntakirutinka.

Ntakirutinka's Valley Fever quickly turned into fungal meningitis, which is the worst-case scenario. He spent two weeks in the hospital. Now, Ntakirutinka has to be seen at the Banner Health Valley Fever Center regularly.

"Pretty much for us, it stays dormant," said Ntakirutinka. "The fungus is there, but as long as you take your medication, it stays dormant. So, I have to keep taking my medication for the rest of my life until they find a cure for it."

The fungus that causes Valley Fever grows in the soil, and it gets into the air when the ground is broken up and the dirt spreads in the air.

"This fungus causes an infection if you inhale a spore. That happens when things dry out and the summer rains here," said Dr. John Galgiani with the Banner Health Valley Fever Center.

Arizona is a hot spot for the disease, due to monsoon storms.

"For us, we're immersed in it," said Dr. Galgiani. "One out of three pneumonias is caused by Valley Fever in this part of the country."

"I'm a person who loves to drive through the construction sites," said Ntakirutinka. "Sometimes, I drive through neighborhoods, these subdivisions that are not complete yet. Probably doing that a lot, that's probably where I inhaled the fungus."

According to Banner Health, there's been about 6,000 reported cases of Valley Fever each year in Arizona, for the past few years.