TUCSON - As spring nears people and pets are at greater risk of contracting Valley Fever which can be deadly. Nearly 6,000 Arizonans got the disease last year.
So far, in 2015 there have been 871 human cases according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
Right now there's no preventative vaccine or cure for Valley Fever. University of Arizona researchers are working to change that.
Dr. Lisa Shubitz is a veterinarian and proud mom to four dogs. But even her pets are not immune to Valley Fever. In 1997 she nearly lost one.
"Even in those days it cost more than $5,000 to save her life. She look an oral medication for the rest of her life," said Sr. Shubitz, "I learned how bad Valley Fever can be in an animal and how my clients feel when they walk in my door with a really sick animal that might not survive."
Starting in May Dr. Shubitz expects to see a spike in Valley Fever cases in canines and people.
"In humans chest pain, lack of response to antibiotics and having something not go away within a couple of weeks would be a really strong indication to ask your doctor to test you for Valley Fever. In dogs similarly, it's usually a cough that won't go away," said Dr. Shubitz.
Sometimes doctors mistake the symptoms of Valley Fever for Pneumonia and can make people sicker.
Valley Fever Survivor Sharon Filip says, "I was told I had one of the worst cases, of pneumonia they've seen in a long time. And so of course the drug of choice is an antibacterial antibiotic. And in my case, and with anyone who has valley fever that's the worst thing you can do."
Filip who lives in Washington State describes how sick she became, after a two week visit to Tucson in 2001.
"I suddenly was so sick that it didn't make any sense. To be perfectly well one day and drastically ill the next, " said Filip who has co-written a book about the experience and started a Valley Fever support group.
Dr. Shubitz says a vaccine that's being developed by researchers at the University of Arizona could prevent the disease in dogs and humans.
But clinical trials for Delta-CPS1 won't happen overnight.
"There's a couple of years of lab studies that need to be done," adds Sr. Shubitz.
Research being done at the University of Arizona is headed by the Valley Fever Center for Excellence.
To learn more about Filip's personal battle, her book is titled Valley Fever Epidemic. Her website is valleyfeversurvivor.com