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UA doctor aims to raise awareness of valley fever - KVOA | KVOA.com | Tucson, Arizona

UA doctor aims to raise awareness of valley fever

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TUCSON -

Each year, 150,000 people contract valley fever. It is well-known in Arizona, but not so much outside the Southwest.

Valley fever is a product of its environment. It is a fungal infection and it grows in certain soils. The infection gets into the air and a person or dog breaths it in. The person or dog then gets infected.

Dr. John Galgiani from the University of Arizona has been studying valley for nearly 40 years. He said two-thirds of the people who are infected show little signs of sickness, or they do not get sick at all, and they are immune for the rest of their lives.

For those who do get sick, they will have flu like symptoms, including a cough, fatigue and shortness of breath.

Galgiani said doctors often misdiagnose patients, even in places where it is well-known.

“So many of [our doctors] don't train here, [and] train [in] other parts of the country,” he said. “It's still a very rare disease for them when they start practicing here so, so unfortunately even in the endemic regions, it's not as well understood disease as it should be.”

That is why his Valley Fever Center of Excellence at the University of Arizona is on a mission to spread awareness about this orphan disease.

Doctors in Oklahoma are developing a quick test for valley fever using a dip stick.

"It would really be close to point of care diagnosis, which would be very valuable if right away you know if your pneumonia is due to this disease,” said Galgiani. “You wouldn't have to be treated with anti-bacterial treatment."

Doctors at the University of Arizona are sponsoring a drug that could potentially cure the disease. Galgiani said the program needs $20 to 50 million more in order for it to head into the clinical trials.

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