From time to time I will write commentaries on various issues with
Valley Fever. They are not meant to offend or scare anyone, but
rather to ensure the facts are fully disclosed and not
whitewashed. Whitewashed, misleading and misrepresented
information is the only way so many residents have even heard of Valley
Fever. I feel it is important to set the record straight.
The wonderful people of Arizona and the other endemic areas have heard
misrepresentations about VF for a century. Few outsiders to these
areas have ever heard of VF at all. Everyone deserves to hear the
October 9, 2012
Sharon's Desk will now be a series of audio presentations. Please listen to her first episode.
I agreed so much with Dave's recent commentary on a CDC report that I decided to include his comments as an entry here:
In some ways the article provided important information, noting a tenfold
increase in cases nationally and even admitting that "this report likely
underestimates the actual rate of coccidioidomycosis in California."
However, even when noting an 8.7% death rate in hospitalized Valley Fever
cases, it still did not seem to emphasize the seriousness of Valley Fever.
Why didn't the 8.7% death rate in California's VF hospitalizations
lead the article? Wouldn't this be fairly important for a disease
that affects people simply because they breathe in certain areas?
Wouldn't it be useful to warn the public that a simple choice of residence
or travel destination could be lethal? One certainly hopes they are
not trying to minimize the impact of the disease, yet burying an 8.7% death
rate in the middle of the text minimizes the impact of this number.
Does the following quotation seem like they feel
the disease is important?
"Of an estimated 150,000 new infections annually
in the United States (2), approximately 60% are asymptomatic (1). Patients
with symptoms usually experience a self-limited influenza-like illness
(ILI), although some develop severe pneumonia. Fewer than 1% of patients
develop disseminated disease. Infection usually produces immunity to reinfection."
Of course, the CDC's statistical model increases
these numbers substantially, indicating 400,000 or more infected persons
annually and has done so for years. They simply ignored their own
The CDC report has other noteworthy comments:
"Coccidioidomycosis is a reportable disease in California,
although laboratories are not required to report."
From comments on the message board, questionnaire
respondents, and even interviews with medical professionals, the general
consensus is that even when reporting truly is required, doctors find themselves
too busy—often with Valley Fever cases, apparently.
"During 2000--2007, estimated average annual incidence
was highest among adults aged 40--49 years (3,518 cases [8.0 per 100,000
population]) versus other age groups..."
But when you look directly at the table provided,
you see that the group with the most infections overall were in the 30-39
age range, and infection totals in the 20-29 age range weren't far from
the 40-49 range.
Why is this important? Because someone interested
in public health should remind people that anyone at any age can contract
this disease and suffer from it. In fact, their own data showed that
a younger group had suffered more overall! The CDC's apparent focus
is on risk groups, which has the unfortunate effect of implying safety
to readers who are outside the group. "Only people of a certain age
or race are at high risk," the uninitiated might say from looking at this
data, "so I guess it's perfectly safe for me!"
Unfortunately, this report (and so many others) are
seemingly written to create this attitude among people unfamiliar with
the importance of this disease, journalists included. This actually detracts
from public health rather than promoting it. The whole truth, plainly saying
other age groups had more infections overall, would be far more beneficial
for doctors, reporters who present this to the public, and the public itself.
"By race/ethnicity, hospitalizations were highest
among non-Hispanic blacks, compared with non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics,
and Asians/Pacific Islanders."
The African-American hospitalization rate nearly doubled
to 169 people, and the Caucasian hospitalization rate nearly doubled to
570. Although the case rate per population of each group still shows race-specific
risks, and cases are notoriously under-reported, it remains important to
mention that EVERYONE is at risk.
Anyone who heard the CDC report's comments without
scrutinizing the numbers would believe Caucasians were at a lower risk.
In reality, the included numbers showed more Caucasians were infected than
any other group. By ignoring this fact and also mentioning the increased
health risk to immunocompromised people (who are at a greater risk for
the worst symptoms of ANY disease), this selective use of the data even
affected the CDC's recommendations:
"Because intensive dust exposure appears to increase
the risk for infection, CDC recommends that persons living or traveling
in regions where coccidioidomycosis is endemic who are at risk for severe
or disseminated disease (e.g., older persons, pregnant women, immunocompromised
persons, and persons of black race or Filipino ancestry) should avoid exposure
to outdoor dust as much as possible."
Since overall infection and hospitalization data indicates
that previously healthy Caucasians are those who suffer the most, the CDC's
proclamation disregards the risk to the people who experience Valley Fever
This is not helpful. For a center that is supposed
to be focused on helping disease control and prevention, their report doesn't
appear to be written with the intent to help either. Valley Fever Survivor
is working tirelessly to deliver accurate and up-to-date information to
people in a way that makes the risks clear. We hope in the future, as our
work continues, that the CDC and other health organizations will join us
by reporting the information clearly and without whitewashing the severity
of the disease.
It has been a long time since I wrote my first commentary for my desk. It is a new year, but unfortunately, it is estimated that about 400,000 new cases of Valley Fever were contracted in 2007. 2008 is not starting off well either.
The Vaccine Project of the Americas still has not received any funding that was earmarked for them. In January of this year we alerted hundreds of thousands of our readers about the importance of sending out their own personal letters to insure $10 million to fund the vaccine project for 2009. We heard from our congressman's email update that it did not pass this year. It is unfortunate and tragic that so many people will suffer as a result.
In September of 2007 VFS with the directors of the Phoenix/Glendale Support Group, held a benefit for Dr. Garry Cole in Glendale, Arizona to support his vitally important Valley Fever vaccine research.
You can still help with Dr. Cole's VF vaccine research by using the information on our Links Page and then sending in your check to help keep his important work going.
To date, we aren't much further along in the hopes of saving lives and stopping this illness from affecting the health and lives of endemic area citizens and their tourists. Nothing has changed with the politics of Arizona when it comes to warnings. They still keep this a "local secret" and probably fear the day the horrors and reality of their biohazard and the incurable disease it causes is brought before the American people and travelers from abroad.
As a result of the large number of people who attended the super bowl in Phoenix this year, there will undoubtedly be Valley Fever cases occurring around the nation. One can only wonder just how many unsuspecting adults, children and pets will suffer severe consequences because they did not know about Arizona's naturally occurring agent of bioterrorism. Just how many were sick right away, and how many will be asymptomatic for a while until it activates months or years later can only be speculation.
Our country's citizens deserve to know the truth about what can befall them if they pass through, vacation in or move to endemic areas of the USA. After all, Valley Fever is the most virulent fungal parasite known to man, federally regulated by two anti-terrorism laws, is incurable and can be devastating and deadly. All it takes is inhaling one spore to contract a fatal case of Valley Fever.
Please help us spread the word about the disease so that future unsuspecting tourists, retirees, students and business travelers will have the right to learn the facts. For much too long the combination of misleading, whitewashed, semi-accurate and blatantly wrong information has caused pain, anguish, long term suffering and death. Primarily, this is because virtually no one knows the consequences of vacationing, passing through or living in these endemic zones. With 65% of all Valley Fever cases being contracted in Arizona it's plain to see why warnings need to be instituted. To date there have not been warnings of any kind over the airways to alert tourists, convention goers, students, retirees, etc. It is very sad that their states' appear to care more about their economies than your health.
Please join us in action so that we can finally make sure that the vaccine and cure projects are fully funded. This disease needs to be eradicated once and for all.
We are very proud that Valley Fever Survivor has become the hub of the worldwide Valley Fever community and is the only web site with the most up-to-date and accurate information available anywhere. It is our goal to help people learn the facts and information about this incurable disease caused by the Southwest's naturally occurring biohazard.
In 2008 the Super Bowl will be held in Arizona. People are
already renting homes for a weeks’ stay for $10,000. They
have never been told that their stay could just be the thing that will
cause them to lose their health or their very life. If someone
told them that the house they were about to rent was filled with
radioactive substances, poisonous gas, or other health hazards on the
property, I doubt if anyone would stay there. Cocci spores can be
indoors on objects, outdoors on furniture, or coming in through window
screens, ventilation systems, etc. Of course it could also be
living in the ground surrounding the home where they plan to stay.
"Fomite transmission" is what happens when spores are inhaled after
they have come to rest on an object, which could carry the spores
anywhere it travels. This is common and all it takes is
inhalation of one spore to contract a serious infection of Valley
Fever. People need to know the facts in order to determine what
health risks they are willing to take.
Valley Fever infects more healthy people than immunocompromised people,
despite implications to the contrary. It is an equal opportunity
parasitic fungus. Anyone can inhale this "monster." It is
approximately the same size as an anthrax spore and is not visible to
the naked eye. In fact over 15 trillion spores could fit in one
Please thoroughly read our facts page, faq page, misconceptions page, symptoms page, action letters page and our archive page for the most up-to-date and accurate information available on this disease. Coccidioides
sp. is so serious that it is regulated as a Select Agent of
bioterrorism in two federal antiterrorism laws. Be informed
before you make your decision to enter the desert southwest. If
you still decide to go there, at least you will know what to expect if
you fall ill and contract Valley Fever. Knowledge is power and only you
can decide if you are willing to risk your health and accept the
consequences of your actions. Remember, Valley Fever is incurable
and can be debilitating, extremely painful, chronic and deadly.
Having this agent of bioterrorism inside you is like nothing else you
have ever experienced. I hope you never do.
If you still think that Valley Fever is a benign disease of no
consequence after you have read all the information on this web site,
then nothing we can show you will change your mind. However, for
those that want the truth no matter how despicable it is, then you are
the ones that can gain from our years of in-depth medical
research. Until Valley Fever Survivor's work began, the experts'
knowledge was rarely heard by the general public. There wasn't a
voice for all those that have died or are presently debilitated due to
It is vitally important that people are made aware of the serious
epidemic that has been occurring for years. The endemic states’
politicians have known Valley Fever would infect university students,
business travelers, retirees, infants and children, mothers and
fathers, sisters and brothers. Without warnings, unsuspecting
people and their beloved pets have been forced to endure a horrible
incurable disease. This disease has destroyed families; people
have lost their homes, businesses, spouses, health insurance, and much
more just because they inhaled a Coccidioides sp. spore and contracted Valley Fever.
I do not want to see anyone else infected unnecessarily just because
the facts about Valley Fever were whitewashed or obscured. Too
many people have been misled to believe a serious VF infection would
not happen to them. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Just how bad can Valley Fever be?
It can enter into your eyes, causing blindness and possible removal of
an infected eye. It can attack any organ or limb in the body to cause
lesions, pain, and to require amputations. Some cases can lead to the
necessary surgical removal of an infected lung, or the disease could
mimic lung cancer and lead to surgical removals that otherwise would
not have been necessary. Valley Fever can cause facial lesions that
leave permanent scaring and/or disfigurement. In the most lethal
variety of the disease it can attack the lining of the brain. It
can infect the bones and joints, causing chronic debilitation, pain and
removal of the infected part.
Too many people with Valley Fever have become wheelchair bound as a
result of having too many spinal taps. Too many people need
shunts to be surgically implanted into their skull to receive
amphotericin B injections to kill cocci in their cerebrospinal
fluid. The antifungals given can have terrible side effects and
work in less than 70% of cases. These antifungal drugs are not
cures since they only bring the population of cocci down in hopes
one’s immune system can take over and cause these rapidly
multiplying parasites to go dormant in your body.
Valley Fever can cause dangerous inflammation and lesions in virtually
any part of the human body. In men it can infect the prostate and
testicles, causing removal of the infected organ. How many of the
men reading this would take the chance of visiting a place where that
outcome is a real possibility? If a young woman of child bearing
age has to remain on lifelong antifungal drugs to keep the disease at
bay, she may be told she can never become a mother. Is that fair
to do to a child or young woman? Only you can decide what risks
you are willing to take with your health, but you need to know all the
facts in order to make your decision.
Unsuspecting tourists, university students, retirees and businesses are
lured to the sunbelt without any knowledge that this severe disease
even exists. The ongoing epidemic has been kept a "local secret"
for decades. It is estimated that over 400,000 people have
contracted VF in 2006.
To date, Arizona has refused to take responsibility for this disease or
compensate the residents or visitors that suffer from it. The
politicians and health officials clearly don't care enough about their
visitors' lives to issue warnings, and they continue to give
half-truths about VF to their residents. Do you want to live in
or visit a place that does this?
In the May 2006 KING-5 Seattle news story on Valley Fever, the on-air
reporter mistakenly said I fear my Valley Fever may come back.
Actually, I have no fear of Valley Fever returning since it never
left. Even though its worst symptoms are in remission, I live
with the chronic pains and problems from the disease every day.
When I detailed the horrors of contracting VF and explained that new
symptoms can activate or old ones can reactivate, it may be
misinterpreted as a fear. I simply feel it is knowledge that everyone
needs to know. Only with detailed and accurate information can
people make their own decisions on where they visit and live when it
involves a serious health risk. It is especially important when
one knows that a state like Arizona will "hang you out to dry" and do
nothing to help you once you are infected.
When our book comes out it will send shockwaves across our nation and
abroad. We at Valley Fever Survivor are in a fight to get warnings out
to the public as well as funding for the vaccine and a cure for those
who presently suffer with it. Please join us and become
proactive. We only wish you the best of health.