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Experts Share Latest Research On Valley Fever

April 29, 2013

Disease is on the rise in San Diego County

By Janice Arenofsky

April 29, 2013 (San Diego’s East County) -- In early April, some of the world’s foremost experts in coccidioidomycosis presented published papers on the epidemiology, laboratory science and clinical status of , a fungal disease endemic to Southwestern states like Arizona, California, New Mexico and Nevada.  Valley fever attacks the human and animal respiratory systems and can disseminate to other organs in the body, proving fatal in some cases.

The 57th annual meeting of the Coccidioidomycosis Study Group took place at the Sheraton Pasadena Hotel, and the all-day session was attended by nearly 100 physicians, public health officials, veterinarians, patients and advocates for a cocci cure.

In past years, optimism surrounded the FDA testing of an experimental antifungal drug called Nikkomycin Z, but for unclear reasons, the University of Minnesota has stopped producing it, thus slowing down clinical trials. A vaccine does not appear to be a reality due to heavy expenses and minimal interest from pharmaceutical companies because of cocci’s status as an orphan disease.

Ironically, concern over valley fever’s spread has escalated in recent months. According to the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report of March 29, California, whose laboratories began reporting coccidioidomycosis in 2010, documented 5,697 valley fever cases for 2011.

But experts say that number typically represents only about 2 percent of new infections due to misdiagnosis, no diagnosis, false negative blood tests and other limiting factors. The Yearly Summary of Coccidioidomycosis for California (2011), issued by the California Department of Public Health’s Infectious Diseases Branch, indicates wide variance in county incidence -- from a high of 2,568 cases in Kern County (where Bakersfield has historically contributed a heavy infection load) to lows of fewer than 10 cases in Napa, San Mateo and Imperial counties.

San Diego County reported 150 cases of valley fever for 2011, which indicates an upward trend since 2007, according to that county’s Health and Human Services Agency.

Read the full article in East County Magazine.

Photo courtesy of East County Magazine.