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More than 6,800 people in Arizona diagnosed with valley fever this year

(Flickr/Naval Surface Warriors)
LISTEN: Arizona is seeing a high number of valley fever cases

PHOENIX — The number of valley fever cases reported in Arizona so far this year has already surpassed last year’s total.

More than 6,850 cases of valley fever were reported statewide as of Dec. 23, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services.

“When you compare it to last year, we’re right now trending about 700 cases more than where we were last year for the total year,” said Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services.

So far this month, more than 1,000 cases have been reported. And in November, more than 900 cases were reported.

Christ said it’s unclear if this year’s total will surpass the 2015 total of 7,622, which was one of the highest number of valley fever cases reported in Arizona.

Related: Phoenix company creates Valley fever test, cuts down on diagnosis time

Valley fever, also known as Coccidioidomycosis, is a fungus that grows in the soil.

People who are exposed to valley fever may develop mild flu-like symptoms, including a fever, cough, fatigue, headaches and muscle aches. Dogs are also susceptible to the disease.

Christ said if the symptoms last for more than two weeks, she recommends getting tested for valley fever.

She said some people, including pregnant woman and those with underlying health conditions, can develop severe valley fever. In some cases, the fungus can spread into various parts of the body, including bones, joints and even the brain.

“That usually is very, very rare,” she said about it spreading to various parts of the body.

“But that’s why it’s so important, if you do have that prolonged cough or fever that lasts greater than two weeks, you want to make sure you go in and see your healthcare provider.”

Arizona is one of the top states with the most valley fever cases reported every year, though Christ said it’s unclear why the numbers have been increasing.

“We don’t know why we are seeing these increases,” she said.

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