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Valley fever cases holding steady, could rise

PHOENIX — Valley fever cases in Arizona are currently holding steady, but a windy April and May could push the numbers to higher than normal.

Clarissa Tsang with the Arizona Department of Health Services said symptoms typically take between seven and 28 days to develop, so there could be a wait to see if the numbers have gone up.

The symptoms of Valley fever are typically flu-like and involve coughing, fatigue and fever, but the illness it not just a lung infection.

“There’s a chance that it can spread to other parts of the body like the brain and cause meningitis,” said Tsang, adding that about 60 percent of those infected do not display symptoms.

There’s no vaccine to prevent people from getting Valley fever from the airborne fungal spores.

“Ideally, it would be great if we could develop a vaccine but for now it’s just not available,” said Tsang.

Through April, Arizona has recorded about 2,000 Valley fever cases, which is similar to last year.

The Centers for Disease Control said the number of Valley fever cases in Arizona increased from about 1,500 in 1998 to nearly 16,500 in 2011. Cases dropped to 13,000 in 2012 but it’s possible that many cases went unreported.