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New Valley fever skin test could save Arizona lives

PHOENIX — A new FDA-approved Valley fever skin test is being put to use in the Valley of the Sun.

Arizona accounts for approximately 60 percent of all Valley fever cases nationwide, because the state is endemic for the disease. Local doctors hope the new skin test is more reliable than the current Valley Fever blood test.

“The blood test is not proven a reliable test, unfortunately,” Arizona Institute of Respiratory Medicine and Valley Fever Clinic Dr. Craig Runbaken said. “We’ve all had critically ill patients with negative blood tests that later turned out to be Valley fever.”

According to Runbaken, the test is faster and more accurate than the current blood test, which could help speed up the process of getting patients the treatment they need.

“It could definitely help with further epidemiologic studies, it will help with diagnosing some patients, and it will help us potentially avoid potential complications of procedures,” Runbaken said.

The Valley-based doctor is already using the new skin test at his clinic and said it has been successful thus far.

“So this gives us a lot of opportunities to use it clinically,” he said. “In my personal experience, I’ve been using it since December, and I’ve given approximately 40 injections.”

On average there are more than 100 Valley fever deaths in Arizona each year, according to Runbaken.