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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Fever ‘infectious but not contagious’

    The UA’s location in the Southwest region of the U.S. makes it a hotbed for valley fever outbreaks and for the subsequent research into their causes.

    Each year valley fever, which is caused by a soil fungus, affects roughly 50,000 people in the U.S. Of those affected, 30,000 live in Arizona and all of them live in the Southwest, said Marc Orbach, an associate professor in the department of plant sciences.

    Orbach gave a presentation about the facts of valley fever Thursday night at the Woods Memorial Library, as part of the state of Arizona’s valley fever awareness week.

    “”(Valley fever) is an infectious disease, but it is not a contagious disease. We don’t catch it from other people,”” Orbach said. “”The University of Arizona has the only medical school in areas where the greatest exposure has been seen, so we think it is an important disease to be studying here.””

    One of the biggest problems with valley fever is that there is currently no sure fire way to avoid it, Orbach said.

    “”West Nile virus – simple: You avoid mosquito bites and you’re not going to get West Nile virus,”” Orbach said. “”Hanta virus – you avoid deer mouse droppings; that’s where it is found. Valley fever, as I said, we don’t know where exactly it is in the soil, so the only solution is to avoid breathing and that’s not a very useful solution.””

    Lisa Shubitz, an associate research professor in the department of veterinary sciences and microbiology, said that valley fever is not just an issue for humans.

    Humans, dogs, primates, llamas, cats and exotic birds can all catch valley fever, Shubitz said. It is most common in dogs because they are constantly digging in the dirt where the fungus that harbors the disease is found.

    “”We believe that most animals contract valley fever in the area near their home, in their backyard, in their neighborhood,”” Shubitz said. “”Potentially, you could get it from the same exposure that your dog did, but you’re not going to get it from your dog.””

    If you are infected with the disease, many times you may not go to the doctor because you are not quite sure what you have, Orbach said.

    “”(With) the mild disease, flu-like symptoms: You have cough, fever, chest pain, weight loss, fatigue and then you can have bone and joint pain, you can have some skin rashes,”” Orbach said. “”One-in-four college students who get it are sick for more than four months. After infection most people develop lifelong immunity, so that means you’re not going to infected again.””

    When most people become infected with the virus, their body will fight through it, and antibiotics are not necessary, Shubitz said.

    “”The same set of drugs that are used in animals, are used in people,”” Orbach said. “”Most human illness, the majority of them are not treated. Even if they go to the doctor, the majority of illnesses are not treated with medication.””

    Currently, there is no vaccine for valley fever, but Shubitz said that if there were a vaccine, it would more likely be customized for Fido than for John Doe.

    “”I think potentially that if we could come up with something, there might be a greater market for a vaccine for animals than humans,”” Shubitz said.

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