ARIZONA NEWS

Banner Health using new technology to detect Valley fever earlier

Apr 24, 2024, 4:25 AM

New technology will help Banner Health detect Valley fever earlier...

A new Valley fever dashboard, along with a new test process, could help Banner Health professionals catch the disease in its early stages. (Photos: Banner Health, left, Pexels, right)

(Photos: Banner Health, left, Pexels, right)

PHOENIX — With cases expected to rise during Arizona’s dry season, Banner Health is implementing new methods to help detect Valley fever earlier.

Banner Urgent Care Medical Director Robert Johns said people develop Valley fever by breathing in fungus spores found in Arizona soil.

“Valley fever can occur all year round but is especially likely when the ground dries out and those fungus spores get into the air,” Johns said in a press release. “It’s endemic to the southwestern United States.”

Severity in infections can range from mild to severe. Most patients have symptoms of fever, fatigue, chest pain, cough, joint pain or rashes. Although many can recover without medical intervention, the disease can progress in other patients.

That’s when the medical troubles become severe. Acute respiratory failure, lung nodules, lung cavities and deep lung infections like meningitis can kick in when Valley fever progresses.

How Banner health will detect Valley fever earlier

Banner Urgent Care facilities have a new Valley fever dashboard medical practitioners can use to get ahead of serious cases.

The dashboard shows them real-time information about Valley fever activity throughout the state. However, there’s particular focus on Maricopa County.

The dashboard also shows providers the percentage of patients in the Banner Health network who tested positive for the disease.

In addition to the dashboard, Banner Urgent Care will also use a new process to test all pneumonia patients for Valley fever — unless they’ve determined other causes for the infection.

This could help prevent patients who develop a certain type of pneumonia from Valley fever from needing hospitalization or even surgery to remove part of the lung.

“We want to get ahead of that to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone,” Johns said.

This new process is a helpful preventative step, according to John Galgiani, the director of the Valley Fever Center at Banner University Medical Center.

“About half of all Valley fever diagnoses in Banner Urgent Care are made in patients who don’t technically have clear cut pneumonia,” Galgiani said. “That means other patients with more vague symptoms of persistent fatigue, respiratory symptoms, arthralgias and rashes might also be good candidates for Valley fever testing.”

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Banner Health using new technology to detect Valley fever earlier