Valley fever training held in Las Cruces

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Las Cruces
The New Mexico Department of Health’s Office of Border Health, partnering with the Valley Fever Center for Excellence and Memorial Medical Center, is hosting a four-hour class for clinicians in New Mexico and west Texas on valley fever.

The Continuing Medical Education course is 8 a.m. 12 p.m. Friday, June 7, at Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces. The course is free to doctors or clinicians providing primary care.

Valley fever is the more common name for coccidioidomycosis, a relatively rare lung infection caused by the ingestion of a fungi commonly found in dirt, where it can easily be breathed into the lungs. Half the time infections results in no symptoms, but in cases symptoms are present, they are often misdiagnosed as the flu because they include coughing, a fever, headaches and body aches.

“Valley fever is far more common in the desert regions of California and Arizona than in New Mexico,” said Department of Health cabinet Secretary Retta Ward, “but it’s important to train our health care providers in New Mexico about the symptoms and the procedures to diagnose it, because of the dangers it poses in some cases to those infected and undiagnosed.”

Cases of valley fever are on the rise, largely in Arizona and California. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases have increased nearly tenfold in the southwestern United States between 1998 and 2011. New Mexico, among other states, rose a combined 1 percent in that same period.

New Mexico DOH is partners in a binational initiative to improve valley fever surveillance and epidemiology and lab capacity in cocci testing, as well as to educate clinicians and the general public in the border region. The collaborative includes staff of the Mexican States of Chihuahua and Sonora, Mexico’s State Health Secretariats, the Arizona Department of Health Services, the CDC, and Mexico’s National Diagnostic and Reference Laboratory.

“The collaborative wants people to be more aware of the symptoms of valley fever and educate clinicians on both sides of the border the need to test for it more often,” said Office of Border Health Director Paul Dulin.

A documentary on the issue, “Valley Fever: The Zebra Among the Horses” will be released region wide later this month.

The course director and faculty overseeing the training are renowned experts in their fields, including Dr. Neil Ampel, professor of medicine at Valley Fever Center for Excellence; Dr. Janis Blair, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic; and Michael Saubolle, Ph.D., DABMM, medical director of infectious diseases at Banner Health Arizona.

For more information on valley fever and to register online for the Continuing Medical Education event log onto nmborderhealth.org.