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UArizona launches new Valley Fever initiative

KOLD News 6-6:30 p.m. recurring
Published: Feb. 28, 2022 at 7:09 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - A new program unites Arizona’s three universities in the fight against Valley Fever.

Valley Fever is a respiratory illness caused by a fungus. It can be mild or even deadly.

“Two-thirds of all Valley Fever infections in the United States, occur in Arizona,” said Dr. John Galgiani, Director of the Valley Fever Center for Excellence, University of Arizona.

Because our state is a hot spot, Dr. Galgiani says he is excited about a new program to help address the issue. He says the state legislature approved a Board of Regents program called “The New Economy Initiative.”

He says it identifies Valley Fever as a public health and economic problem in the state. This initiative will create a management program to control Valley Fever. It creates a partnership between Northern Arizona University, Arizona State University, and the University of Arizona.

“Each of the three schools have different areas of expertise and pooling our stuff will lead to things we couldn’t do otherwise,” he said. “And I think it also represents really almost for the very first time, the state identifying Valley Fever as an important problem to deal with.”

Dr. Galgiani says the economic impact is significant.

“In 2019, the economic impact in the state of Arizona was over $700-million dollars.”

This new initiative will focus on reducing the financial burden but also on development of medicine approaches and drug development as well as reducing the environmental risk. He says it is rare in Arizona to get state funding for Valley Fever.

“For this state, it’s exceptionally unusual. There was one allocation of money back in 2007, for $300,000,” said Galgiani. “Since then, there’s really been no other continuous funding or even episodic funding. So, it’s really a first I think in a big way.”

Dr. Galgiani hopes this program is just the beginning.

“We don’t have the money in hand to do the vaccine work although that would be a wonderful next step.”

Dr. Galgiani says they just had their initial committee meeting in Phoenix and they now have a plan on how to proceed. He also says due to the weather models it looks like this fall we could see a greater number of Valley Fever cases.

As for just how much money is going into this program, the University of Arizona Health Sciences says it is receiving $900,000 during the course of two years.

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