Arizona health officials warn about rising fungal infection risks

The Arizona Department of Health Services issued a notice Sept. 26 warning clinicians and residents to be on the lookout for a fungi-caused infection known as Valley Fever. 

Coccidioides, the fungus that causes the infection, is often found in the soil of dry, arid regions and has been on the rise for several years both in Arizona and California, according to CDC data

"Valley fever is often misdiagnosed as an infection caused by a bacteria or virus, which can cause delays in receiving antifungal treatment and sometimes contributes to the unnecessary use of other medicines," the Arizona Department of Health Services notice states. "Delayed treatment can be life-threatening and costly for some people… People who develop severe infections or whose infections spread to other parts of their body often require hospitalization and may need to take antifungal treatment for a long time."

However, in most cases individuals who develop the infection recover on their own, according to the CDC. 

Fungal infections are also likely to continue to climb in the years to follow and the tools to measure their impact are not where they need to be so clinicians need to be prepared, Tom Chiller, MD, CDC's head of mycotic diseases, told Becker's in a previous interview.

"The potential is unfortunately huge for there to be more pathogens because [right now] we're only aware of a sliver of the fungal species out there," Dr. Chiller said. "So it certainly makes me concerned knowing that fungi are hardy, adaptable, they are the most similar organism to humans to human cells, which makes them hard to kill and hard to identify because they're similar to our own bodies and therefore drugs that kill fungi kill human cells, potentially. So we will have to find specific targets for new antifungal drugs."

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