• Assessing the Habitat of Coccidioides Posadasii, the Valley Fever Pathogen: A Study of Environmental Variables and Human Incidence Data in Arizona

      Yool, Stephen R.; Mann, Sarina N.; Yool, Stephen R.; Barron-Gafford, Greg A.; Christopherson, Gary L. (The University of Arizona., 2017)
      Coccidioidomycosis, or Valley Fever, is an infectious disease caused by inhalation of soil-dwelling fungus Coccidioides posadasii spores in the Lower Sonoran Life Zone (LSLZ) in Arizona. In the context of climate change, the habitat of environmentally-mediated infectious diseases, such as Valley Fever, are expected to change. Connections have been drawn between climate and Valley Fever infection. The operational scale of the organism is still unknown. Here, we use climatic variables, including precipitation, soil moisture, and temperature. We use PRISM precipitation and temperature data, and Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) as a measure of soil moisture for the entire state of Arizona, divided into 126 primary care areas (PCA). These data are analyzed and regressed with Valley Fever incidence to determine the effects of climatic variability on disease distribution and timing. This study confirms that Valley Fever occurrence is clustered in the LSLZ. Seasonal Valley Fever outbreak was found to be variable year-to-year based on climatic variability. The inconclusive regression analyses indicate that the operational scale of Coccidioides is smaller than the PCA region. All variables are related to Valley Fever infection, but one variable was not found to hold more predictive power than others.