When Valley Public Radio and other Central California media started reporting on valley fever last fall, the disease was commonly overlooked by medical professionals and government agencies. But as the Reporting on Health Collaborative began publishing more than 50 stories and blog posts, health and political leaders began taking notice.

An estimated 6 percent of dogs in Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties become sick with valley fever every year, costing Arizona dog owners more than a million dollars a year in diagnosis and treatment, according to UA research.

It was the summer of 2009 when Paso Robles resident John Osman was pestered by one of his chronic inner ear infections. But this time was different.He felt rundown, and the sickness changed and lingered for almost three weeks. Eventually, he thought he must have caught the flu.

One year ago, valley fever was a disease that few people outside of Arizona or Central California had heard of. Caused by breathing in spores from a fungus that grows in the dirt throughout the Southwest, coccidioidomycosis can cause serious illness and a painful death.

Many questions about valley fever remained unanswered Tuesday afternoon as public health officials, physicians and politicians finished a two-day symposium on the disease, but officials and doctors alike were hopeful that the summit will be a turning point in the fight against valley fever.

This week, the leaders of the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are joining leading doctors, researchers, lawmakers, and area residents at a two-day symposium on valley fever in Bakersfield.

The National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will undertake a clinical trial to learn more about valley fever, agency leaders announced Monday at the start of a two-day symposium on valley fever, hosted by Bakersfield Congressman Kevin McCarthy.

Three years ago, Jeff Haberly was like Superman. The young engineer and triathlete was juggling a demanding career, new fatherhood and marathon training when he came down with fever and fatigue that just wouldn’t go away.

In his mid-20s, Shane Hoover started planning for his death. Hoover was diagnosed with valley fever, which is caused by inhaling fungal spores that grow in the soil, in 2010. He took medications for a while that kept it at bay. But he says he could not afford to keep paying for the drugs and, when he stopped, the disease intensified.