Valley fever in Arizona: Strong winds kicking up more than dust - East Valley Tribune: Arizona

Valley fever in Arizona: Strong winds kicking up more than dust

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Posted: Tuesday, April 9, 2013 9:52 am | Updated: 10:59 am, Sat Apr 13, 2013.

Strong winds making their way across our state on Monday are kicking up more than just dirt and dust.

Specialists tell ABC15 dust storms also do a good job of blowing bacteria and contagious fungi around the air. During and shortly after the storms, people are likely to breathe in the contaminated air.

The important thing you need to know is that sicknesses, like Valley Fever, take a week or as much as a month to start showing symptoms.

We went to the Arizona Center for Chest Diseases to find out just how bad Valley Fever can be.

Dr. Cameron Dick, a Pulmonary and Critical Care Specialist, said he regularly sees severe cases of Valley Fever in the hospital.

"Those patients can be in respiratory failure, on a ventilator, but those are by far the minority," Dick said. "Most people [get through] their Valley Fever infection without too much trouble."

Fern Calamar knows valley fever all too well. Last year she contracted the air-borne virus, but didn’t know it.

“It started out as a cough and I thought it was the flu,” said Calamar.

Doctors diagnosed Calamar’s symptoms as pneumonia and landed her in intensive care. It wasn’t until Calamar’s daughter noticed a rash on her mom’s back that she suspected it was valley fever.

“She had it all over her back. It was red and bumpy. I knew these rashes were one of the symptoms of valley fever,” said Calamar’s daughter.

The entire process took three weeks for Calamar to recover. Now Calamar spends windy days indoors.

“I won’t step foot outside on days like this. Doctors never expected me to come out of the hospital. They thought I was going to die,” said Calamar.

Doctors say most face masks used to protect the wearer from breathing dirty air will not protect from Valley Fever and other bacteria in the air because they are small enough to pass through the fibers of the mask.

According to the Mayo Clinic , the symptoms of Valley Fever include:

Fever

Cough

Chest pain — varying from a mild feeling of constriction to intense pressure resembling a heart attack

Chills

Night sweats

Headache

Fatigue

Shortness of breath

Joint aches

Red, spotty rash

Doctors suggest that if you start to feel run down, tired, or just sick, you could be coming down with Valley Fever and should be checked by a physician.

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