Valley Fever Center of Excellence Now Part of Arizona Health Sciences Center

<p>Valley Fever Center of Excellence Now Part of Arizona Health Sciences Center</p>

Valley Fever Center of Excellence Now Part of Arizona Health Sciences Center

The Valley Fever Center of Excellence is now part of the Arizona Health Sciences Center (AHSC), where it is the seventh Center of Excellence at the University of Arizona College of Medicine.
(Other College of Medicine Centers of Excellence are the Arizona Arthritis Center, the Arizona Emergency Medicine Research Center, the Arizona Cancer Center, the Arizona Respiratory Center, the UA Sarver Heart Center, the Steele Memorial Children's Research Center.)

Previously part of the UA's Arizona Research Laboratories, the Valley Fever Center's five-year review recommended the move to the College of Medicine. The recommendation was accepted by the UA Provost and approved by the Council of Department Heads.

Founded in 1996, the Valley Fever Center of Excellence (VFCE) is sponsored jointly by the UA and the Southern Arizona Veterans Affairs Health Care System. The Center mobilizes resources for the eradication of Valley Fever through the development of public awareness and education; promotion of high-quality care for patients; and research into all aspects of the disease. The VFCE offers the following services:

The Valley Fever telephone resource hotline (established in 1996) is available to answer general questions Monday-Friday, (520) 629-4777. The VFCE website is an excellent resource for information about the disease, offering general information, interviews, a message board for patient discussion, information on canine Valley Fever, photos and other information. Please visit the website at http://www.arl.arizona.edu/vfce

A VFCE informational brochure is available to individuals and organizations; the Valley Fever Center Newsletter is published quarterly; the Center also offers a Valley Fever Awareness Program for corporate and community organizations. For information on any of these, call the Hotline, (520) 629-4777.

The Valley Fever Syllabus for Medical Practitioners is being made available on electronic media as part of the center's educational plan to provide a self-study continuing medical education course for health care professionals. Copies are available by calling the Hotline, (520) 629-4777.


What is Valley Fever?
Although first described more than a century ago, Valley Fever still is considered an "emerging infectious disease" by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Inhaling tiny spores of a fungus that grows in Southwestern deserts causes valley fever (coccidioidomycosis or "cocci"). When soils containing the fungus are disturbed and dust is raised, the microscopic spores may be inhaled with the dust, sometimes resulting in infection. Infection does not always lead to detectable disease and is not often fatal. In about 60 percent of the cases, symptoms are so mild individuals are unaware they have been infected. Valley Fever is not contagious.

Symptoms, which usually last for days to weeks, typically involve fever, profuse sweating at night, chest pain, cough, loss of appetite, and generalized muscle and joint aches, particularly of the ankles and knees. Patients also may experience a rash that resembles measles or hives but develops more often as tender red bumps on the shins or forearms. In the 40 percent of those who develop evidence of the disease, the signs and symptoms begin seven to 21 days after the spores are inhaled. Although complete recovery usually occurs, those afflicted may feel tired or have vague aches for up to a year. Occasionally the disease develops into a severe, life-threatening "disseminated" form, which may involve skin, bones, the brain or other parts of the body. Serious cases often require antifungal therapy. Diagnosis is accomplished by specific laboratory tests. If winter visitors develop these symptoms and see their physician back home, they should mention that they were in the Southwest where Valley Fever is common.


How serious is the health threat for Arizona?
The Arizona Department of Health Services saw a rise in reported Valley Fever cases of 31 percent over reported cases in 2001. More than 3,300 cases were reported in Arizona last year.
Generally, the highest prevalence of infections in Arizona are more likely to occur during the months of May through July, and following the summer rainy season, October through December. In California, the highest prevalence of the disease occurs during the months of June through November without the summer break.

For more information regarding Valley Fever and the diseases it causes, please contact the Valley Fever Center for Excellence at (520) 629-4777, or by email: vfever@arl.arizona.edu.