In the last six years, about 10 confirmed cases of valley fever have popped up in Eastern Washington. And the state of Washington estimates there are even more exposures that haven’t been diagnosed.
Valley fever is a fungus found in soil that can make people sick. Mainly, the illness has been linked to California and the Southwest.
Wayne Clifford, a disease expert with Washington’s Department of Health, is planning a new pilot study to better map valley fever -- using pet dogs.
“Dogs are really a good sentinel for valley fever because of the way they walk around with their nose to the ground all the time,” Clifford said.
Clifford plans to work with veterinarians and pet owners to test the dogs’ blood for antibodies to valley fever. Then, on positive dogs, they’ll map the animals’ range. It will give Clifford’s researchers starting places to further test soils in Eastern Washington.