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By: Steve Goldstein on 09/03/2012
The official end of the Valley's monsoon season is two weeks away, but there still may be plenty of dust storms to come and more cases of Valley fever.
Valley fever is a condition that hits Arizonans hard and is often misdiagnosed. One thing we know for sure is that the illness is caused by breathing in spores from a fungus that can be found in the state's desert areas.
Last year, researchers expected Valley fever cases to increase in Maricopa County, following intense dust storms.
Dr. John Galgiani of the University of Arizona's Valley Fever Center for Excellence says the numbers did go up, but not in the weeks immediately following the storms.
"There's actually solid evidence relating weather patterns to seasonal incidence of disease, and my interpretation of that increase is that it reflects some dry years that we've had in the past -- allowing more spores to get into the air -- but it doesn't really require high winds to do that," Galgiani said. "It could be just the simplest of desert breezes."
Galgiani says doctors may also be getting better at diagnosing Valley fever. In 2011, there were nearly 16,500 reported cases of the illness in Arizona, and more than 80 percent were in Maricopa County.