Most New Jersey readers have probably never heard of valley fever, an illness caused by fungal spores most common in the southern United States. Valley fever is difficult to diagnose and rare in many parts of the United States, but health experts say that even in areas where it is more common, doctors often consider it as an option only when the disease has become more severe.
Delayed diagnosis is a major problem and can be life threatening for a variety of infections and rare illnesses, not just in the case of valley fever. Bacterial infections, particularly those contracted while in the hospital, can pose a serious risk to New Jersey residents if not diagnosed promptly and treated with the appropriate medication.
Like the flu or mild cases of strep throat, many people are able to fight off illnesses without significant medical intervention. Many people in the areas affected by valley fever have developed antibodies to fight the illness, so many of the less severe cases go undocumented.
In addition, valley fever was once contained to the southwest, where the fungus that causes it grows naturally. With increased travel across the country, disease like this can spread far and wide to areas with low awareness levels where people haven’t developed immunity. In fact, healthcare group Kaiser Permanente is holding an education seminar focus entirely on the disease. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control estimate that the number of cases of valley fever have nearly doubled nationwide, compared with previous estimates. Yet many of these cases go undiagnosed, which can yet to a life-altering or potentially fatal illness.
This situation shows why it is so important for doctors to be aware of a wide variety of possible illnesses and make sure to adequately test patients and get an accurate diagnosis as soon as possible. Delayed diagnosis could have a devastating effect on a patient’s overall outcome.
If you or a family member has been injured as a result of delayed diagnosis, please contact Breslin & Breslin for a free consultation.
Source: Associated Press, “Misdiagnosis of Valley Fever Prolongs the Suffering,” Nov. 12, 2012.