Valley Fever And COVID-19 Share Similar Symptoms

Published: Monday, November 16, 2020 - 10:28am
Updated: Friday, November 20, 2020 - 3:31pm

If you’ve lived in the Phoenix-area for any length of time, you’ve probably heard of Valley fever — it’s a fungal infection in the lungs. But it happens to share a lot of the same symptoms as COVID-19: fever, cough, shortness of breath.

Thomas Grys is the co-director of Microbiology at the Mayo Clinic.

"We diagnose the majority of cases in the United States, right here in Arizona," Grys said. 

In 2018, roughly 7,500 Arizonans were diagnosed with Valley fever, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And symptoms overlap.

"So, if you have fever, and cough, and fatigue, not only are these common to both diseases, but they're common to lots of things," Grys said. 

But what if the two collide?

"Despite how much we've learned about the disease that causes COVID-19, how it interacts with other diseases has been a little harder. What we do know if there's an acute or chronic insult to a lung, it can predispose to other diseases," he said. 

And Grys says you don't want to be fighting more than one thing at a time.

There has recently been sharp drop in the number of cases being reported to the state health department in March, it got the attention of Dr. John Galgiani, since roughly half of all Valley fever infections in the U.S. come from Maricopa County. 

"And I think what best explains that is doctors were so fixated and still are quite focused on COVID, that they would just test for COVID," said Galgiani.

He says Valley fever is often underdiagnosed because doctors don’t always think to test for it. But because COVID-19 and Valley fever have overlapping symptoms, Galgiani says it would not be inappropriate to test for both illnesses.