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Dogs Are New Focus In Hunt For Valley Fever In Eastern Washington

Wayne Clifford
Washington Department of Health
File photo. Washington State Department of Health workers tested soils for Valley Fever near the Tri-Cities in southeast Washington earlier this year.

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.

Anna King calls Richland, Washington home and loves unearthing great stories about people in the Northwest. She reports for the Northwest News Network from a studio at Washington State University, Tri-Cities. She covers the Mid-Columbia region, from nuclear reactors to Mexican rodeos.