The mysterious desert dwellers
May 20, 2020 2:38 PM   Subscribe

It's something that dogs out here are especially susceptible to catching, since they sniff the dirt and they're lower to the ground. One thing about valley fever is that it can actually get into the joints. Anytime our vet sees a dog with an unexplained limp, the first thing she does is tell the owners she wants to test for valley fever. Limps and such are how many canine cases are detected. Something that really sucks is the price of a commonly used drug to treat it, fluconazole, has skyrocketed over the past few years. It used to be very cheap. Now it's not unheard of for an owner to put a dog down because they can't afford the med.
posted by azpenguin at 2:48 PM on May 20 [5 favorites]

"Something that really sucks is the price of a commonly used drug to treat it, fluconazole, has skyrocketed over the past few years."

Holy guacamole. From a 2013 AZCentral article, High cost of valley fever: Price of drug skyrockets:

"A one-month supply of 100-milligram tablets of fluconazole rose from $5.50 in June to $52 in mid-July when a manufacturer raised its price, according to one pharmacy.

Dee Alschuler, who runs Lucky Dog Rescue in Phoenix, has noticed a trend in recent weeks. She estimates that more than half of the new dogs she gets have valley fever, and many of the owners cite the cost of fluconazole for surrendering the pets.

“If it’s a bigger dog like a Great Dane, your costs can easily be $500 to $600 each month,” said Alschuler, whose organization is caring for 18 dogs with valley fever. “A lot of people don’t have the means to spend that much. That’s a car payment.”

Bad, that.
posted by bz at 3:39 PM on May 20 [6 favorites]



/sudden cough
posted by mwhybark at 6:32 PM on May 20

(my wife become ill several years ago after a PNW-CA automotive round trip that included a southbound leg through the Valley. The cause of her illness was never diagnosed but it was treated successfully. Valley Fever was one of the suspected causes; I’m not sure it was ever ruled out. You hot-climate extremophiles can have it; I’ll stick with the drippy cold wet microorganisms, thank you. I mean, THNGGKK YEW.)
posted by mwhybark at 6:37 PM on May 20 [3 favorites]

My father was born in Phoenix in 1936. He contracted Valley Fever when he was 12, and was bedridden for a few months. He recovered and it wasn't until he started to have breathing issues at 80 years of age doctors found scar tissue in his lungs, assumed caused by Valley Fever.
posted by Arctostaphylos at 7:10 PM on May 20 [2 favorites]

I didn't know we had it in Washington, though why not? we have salt flats. Eek.
posted by clew at 8:36 PM on May 20

I got that dust pneumony, pneumony in my lung,
I got the dust pneumony, pneumony in my lung,
An' I'm a-gonna sing this dust pneumony song.

I went to the doctor, and the doctor, said, "My son, "
I went to the doctor, and the doctor, said, "My son,
You got that dust pneumony an' you ain't got long, not long."

Now there ought to be some yodelin' in this song;
Yeah, there ought to be some yodelin' in this song;
But I can't yodel for the rattlin' in my lung.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:29 PM on May 20 [2 favorites]

Thanks for these articles. I grew up in Scottsdale, less than a mile from the undeveloped reservation east of Pima Rd. Oh, the dust storms that came through! Both my brothers contracted valley fever. One had severe flu-like symptoms for a few weeks and then recovered fully. The other had type 1 diabetes that attacked his kidneys while the valley fever attacked his lungs. He suffered for many years with ill health and finally passed away at the age of 35. I appreciate being able to read and understand more details about something I only knew through childhood eyes. Thank you.
posted by CathyG at 10:17 PM on May 20 [7 favorites]

Sure would be nice if there was public funding to get that vaccine tested for use in humans.
posted by aniola at 10:26 PM on May 20 [3 favorites]

On the off chance my anecdote led you to the conclusion that WA has the dry pneumony, the valley in my anecdote is the one down in far Californy which contains Fresno and Bakersfield.
posted by mwhybark at 10:39 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]

The Seattle Mariners have a Spring Training facility in Peoria Arizona, and a few years back (2017, maybe? but I think it was earlier), so many players got 'severe headcolds' that it actually disrupted the roster significantly – I seem to recall that James Paxton had to leave the team for a week or so (he was hospitalized with pneumonia later, but that was in the Fall of 2018).

That Spring the biggest 'superbloom' of desert wild flowers in many years took place because of very unusually high rainfall, and if the wild flowers are blooming, so are the fungi which cause Valley Fever.

So I thought — and still think — that the team probably had an outbreak of Valley Fever, and during the regular season that year, the Mariners were decimated by injuries which mainly seemed to involve muscle and joint inflammation, which are common in the aftermath of Valley Fever.
posted by jamjam at 1:54 AM on May 21 [6 favorites]

For those of us who live outside the desert southwest and think we needn't worry about such things, there is always histoplasmosis for us to get.
posted by TedW at 4:47 AM on May 21

I remember growing up in Phoenix in the 70s/80s and the regular Valley Fever PSA on the tv, "...distant, dry, dusty...dusty...dusty..."

I wish I could find a link to it.
posted by djeo at 8:13 AM on May 21

In 2011, my husband and I adopted a an older rescue dog with valley fever. They are harder to adopt out because the medicine has become so expensive. Valley fever testing is also expensive - we adopted two dogs last fall and each of their tests (negative thank goodness) were over $300. Some dogs can be cured and stop taking fluconazole but with some dogs, you can never eliminate the fungus entirely because it can be dormant in bones and organs.

This good boy had an advanced case and his owners had brought him to animal control to be euthanized. The intake people at animal control marked him down as blind because his eyes were a solid yellow crust. Turns out he wasn't blind but he had severe dry eye and needed eye drops 3 times a day for the rest of his life or his eye would fill quickly with mucous.

Our vet took x-rays of him and showed us that the bones in all of his legs looked like lace on the x-ray. They said it could be valley fever or bone cancer - we would have to wait to see. He broke a leg (greenstick fracture) on a walk on a sidewalk, and my husband had to carry this poor 80 pound wailing dog home. We spend a good year nursing him back to health and got to know our vet very well. He was a fabulous, wonderful dog and I'm glad we had the resources to help him.

We adopted a second dog with valley fever around the same time. She was younger and her case was not as bad, but her valley fever was impossible to fully eliminate. Perhaps because of the valley fever, or the fluconzole, she also developed lymphangiectasia. Treating the valley fever exacerbated the lymphangiectasia, but we couldn't stop using fluconzole because her joints would immediately swell up from the valley fever and she would develop limps in most of her legs. We kept her on that knife's edge for two years but eventually lost her to liver failure.

One our vets over the years retired from her practice to go into valley fever research. We participated in a study with her a few ago, looking for a quicker cheaper test.

We have three dogs right now who don't have the disease, although one does dig in the yard, so I'll probably have her tested every few years to make sure she's still fungus-free.
posted by See you tomorrow, saguaro at 8:35 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]

I had valley fever back in 2008. I experienced the worst pain of my life from pleurisy, due to it. I spent weeks, struggling to walk the distance of a room without getting out of breath. At the worst of it, walking just a few yards at a show pace led to my vision staring to go, due to the lack of oxygen.

I developed asthma. I can't tell you how long it took before I could laugh without a body-wracking coughing fit--maybe a year? My lungs are permanently damaged.

Fun, fun.
posted by meese at 12:42 PM on May 21 [2 favorites]

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