Dust Storms and Valley Fever in the American West


Dust in the air in Arizona and other southwestern states is not just a concern for air quality – it can also carry the fungus which causes Valley fever, an infectious and potentially severe disease.

Valley fever is a dangerous threat to human health – and cases are on the rise in the arid southwestern United States, as wind from increasing dust storms can transport the fungal spores that cause the disease. Valley fever is caused by the Coccidioides fungus, which grows in dirt and fields and can cause fever, rash and coughing. Using NASA research and satellite data, the World Meteorological Organization is refining its Sand and Dust Storm Warning Advisory and Assessment System to help forecast where dust risk is greatest.

George Mason University’s Daniel Tong, one of the first scientists to discover the link between dust storms and Valley fever, leads a NASA-funded team to track the airborne spread of Valley fever across the United States for the first time.

There are about 15 thousand cases of Valley fever in the U.S. each year, and approximately 200 deaths, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Funded by NASA’s Earth Science Division, Tong’s team is helping track disease risk for epidemiologists, health care providers and public health decision makers.

Continue reading at NASA Earth Science Division

Image via NASA Earth Science Division