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PHOENIX -- Valley doctors are urging residents to stay indoors if possible during a dust storm, as the region is a hot bed for Valley fever.

"Tucson and Phoenix are the highest rates of Valley fever in North America and probably the world because of the fact we have so much activity here in the desert and native to this soil," said Dr. Chris Finlay of Scottsdale Healthcare Primary Care Tempe.

Valley fever is a lung infection caused by fungus that lives in desert soil. The CDC reported that Arizona has seen a large increase in the number of Valley fever cases, from 1,474 in 1998 to 16,467 in 2011.

According to Scottsdale Healthcare, symptoms include coughing, fever, headaches, fatigue and shortness of breath. Other symptoms include a rash, night sweats and weight loss. All or a combination of symptoms generally appear seven to 28 days after exposure.

"More than 50 percent of cases go undiagnosed because the symptoms are so mild that people did not realize they had Valley fever," said Finlay.

However, it can become a life-and-death situation, particularly for those with compromised immune systems, said Finlay.

Sandra Haros , Reporter

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