(HealthDay News) – The incidence of coccidioidomycosis, or valley fever, which is endemic to the southwestern United States, has dramatically increased since the late 1990s, particularly among the elderly, according to a study in the March 29 issue of Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Clarisse A. Tsang, MPH, from the Arizona Department of Health Services in Phoenix, and colleagues analyzed the incidence of coccidioidomycosis using data from the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance Systems from 1998–2011.

The researchers found that in the endemic areas of Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah, the incidence of coccidioidomycosis increased from 5.3 per 100,000 in 1998 to 42.6 per 100,000 in 2011. The incidence was 69.1 per 100,000 in 2011 among people 60–79 years old. Arizona and California had the greatest number of cases, according to the report.

“The number of reported cases of coccidioidomycosis is increasing,” the authors write. “Health-care providers should be alert for this infection among persons with influenza-like illnesses who live in or have traveled to endemic areas.”

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