ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - There's a new warning out from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about an increase in valley fever in New Mexico.
Serious cases of the disease have increased tenfold in the Southwest in the past 13 years.
Valley fever is caused by a fungus that travels through the air making this time of year worse for getting it in your system.
It's a flu-like disease that, in severe cases, can last weeks or months.
"Those that have symptoms that are more flu-like. The difference is, you'll get over flu," said Dr. Roderick McVeety, medical director of the ABQ Health Partners Urgent Care in Rio Rancho. "This will keep hanging on and on."
The CDC reports 97% of all cases were in California or Arizona, but New Mexico's climate makes a perfect storm for the fungus to travel around the region.
"This is an area where we have much more dust because of the dryness, and the spore travels in that dust," he said.
If you've lived in the Southwest for a while, you probably have the antibodies for it already.
In typical cases, you might not even know you have it.
But for severe cases, it can knock you out for weeks.
"The symptoms are pretty classically flu, so you have headache, fever, body aches, cough," McVeety said.
There's not a lot you can do to keep yourself from getting valley fever although McVeety says if you're in a place with a lot of dust, it doesn't hurt to wear a mask.
The CDC doesn't know exactly why the cases of valley fever have increased so much, but it could be due to warmer weather or denser populations in the Southwest.
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