UArizona researcher says it's Valley Fever season in Arizona

Monsoon season brings storms, rain and dust, as well as concerns about Valley Fever in Arizona.

Researchers at the University of Arizona say even though Arizonans have not seen a lot of storm activity, Valley Fever cases are spiking.

"It's a fungus that grows in the soil of these areas, and if the spores of the fungus get out into the air, and you inhale one, you become infected," said Dr. John Galgiani, the Director of the Valley Fever Center for Excellence at University of Arizona's College of Medicine in Tucson.

Dr. Galgiani has been tracking the disease for 3 years.

"We have a brand-new tool to understand when the disease is in the community, and it has to do with working Banner Health, which has 44 urgent cares, most of which are in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area," said Dr. Galgiani.

Real data gives researchers a better understanding of when to expect Valley Fever, and they say it's happening in July.

"What this tool would be usual for is to talk in real time about what's going on in terms of activity of this disease in this community, just like we do with influenza," said Dr. Galgiani.

Dr. Galgiani said there are about 150,000 infections every year. Two thirds of those are in Arizona, and half of all infections occur in Maricopa County. He also said a Valley Fever vaccine for dogs is in the works, as UArizona is working with a vet company to roll out a Valley Fever prevention vaccine as soon as 2024.

The next step would be to get a similar vaccine in human trials.

Woman who battled Valley Fever speaks out

On July 28, we spoke with a Valley Fever survivor who has dedicated her life to informing others about the disease.

"It's almost like you have something in you that's trying to kill you," said Sharon Filip.

While Filip survived Valley Fever, it took her a decade to get to that point.

"It was like I fell off a cliff," said Filip. "I mean, I couldn't get my head off the pillow. I hurt everywhere."

Filip started feeling sick after visiting her son's university in Tucson. Many tests later, she found out it was Valley Fever.

Symptoms can typically last weeks or months, with fatigue being one of the last symptoms a patient experiences.

"I used to walk up and down the stairs, and I was finished for the day. Fatigue is one of the main things that happens with this, besides the fact that it can enter into and impact every organ of your body," said Filip.

After experiencing ten years of pain, and briefly being in a coma because of Valley Fever, Filip created the organization ‘Valley Fever Survivor’ as a way to inform others about the disease.

"I think it's so important for everyday people who live in that beautiful state to know if you are feeling like something is wrong, seek out a doctor. Ask for a Valley Fever test," said Filip.