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CDC: Valley Fever cases in Arizona, Southwest, rise

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said cases of Valley Fever in Arizona and some other Southwestern states rose dramatically between 1998 and 2011. The CDC says there were a little more than 2,200 cases in Arizona, California, New Mexico, Nevada and Utah in 1998 , but that by 2011, those states reported more than 22,000 cases. Clarisse Tsang with the Arizona Department of Health Services was one of the report’s co-authors. She’s not sure the number of reported Valley Fever cases will continue to rise.

"My theory is it’ll probably level out to be about the same," Tsang said. "We actually had 16,000 cases 2011 and this year, probably about 13,000-14,000, we’re still finalizing our 2012 numbers. So, it does seem to be kind of plateauing or not increasing."

Tsang attributes a few factors to the higher numbers, including better reporting and more visitors to Arizona and the Southwest. The CDC found that Arizona accounted for around two-thirds of all Valley Fever cases nationwide over the 13 year period, although the agency says cases were reported in 28 states and Washington, DC. Tsang says that doesn’t necessarily mean the disease is found outside this region.

"We always get calls from the public asking questions about Valley Fever and they’ll say, ‘You know, we went to Arizona and now we came back and we’re sick and having these symptoms but our doctors don’t know about this disease,'" Tsang said. "So, definitely, I do believe that a lot of the people that get Valley Fever in the nation travel to Arizona"

Tsang also says some of those travelers likely visited other areas of the Southwest.