Dust storm leaves city covered in dirt and health issues

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by Tyler Baldwin

azfamily.com

Posted on July 7, 2011 at 10:02 PM

Updated Friday, Jul 8 at 5:50 AM

PHOENIX- Valley hospitals are seeing a spike in emergency room visits after the dust storm of the decade.

Tuesday's storm brought in a wall of dust a mile high and up to 100 miles wide. That dust storm has left the Valley covered in dirt and has caused serious problems for residents and tourists in town for the MLB All-Star game.

Denise Harrington, an infection preventionist at Banner Desert Medical Center, says after the storm people poured into the emergency room with breathing problems. "From this big wind? Yes, there were a lot of asthma problems and respiratory problems that they needed to come in and get some extra help to get over."

Cell phone video of the storm can be seen all over YouTube. The wall of dust went viral within hours and now health experts are worried it will go fungal.

Now that the dust has settled, doctors are waiting for the second wave of patients. This time, people suffering from Valley Fever, a disease caused by spores of fungi. These spores live in the dirt that was blown everywhere by the storm.

Harrington says, "The time for incubation on Valley fever is anywhere from seven to 28 days. So, starting a week out, we would keep a higher index of suspicion when you are trying to diagnose something when they have been exposed to this."

The storm left behind layers of dirt on homes, cars, even the top of Chase Field, where the All-Star game will be played this week. Hundreds of thousands of spectators will partake in the All-Star festivities.

Harrington feels the out-of-town fans need to be cautious. If they catch Valley Fever and start seeing symptoms once they get back home, she believes the disease could be misdiagnosed.

Anti-bacterial or anti-viral medication will have no effect on the fungus that causes Valley Fever. Harrington says that untreated Valley fever is dangerous. “It can end up in your lungs, it can end up in your bones, it can end up just as a skin infection, the worst one, you can end up getting it in your brain, then they call it cocci meningitis and you can die from that."
 

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