Coccidioidomycosis

(Valley Fever)

Definition

Coccidioidomycosis, commonly called valley fever, is a fungal infection of the lungs that can cause serious problems.

Causes

The fungus that causes valley fever is found in the soil, most commonly in the southwestern United States, Mexico, and parts of Central and South America. The fungus lives in the soil, but it is transported through the air and into the lungs, where it infects people who breathe it in. When soil that contains the fungus is disturbed, spores are released into the air.The disease cannot be transmitted from person to person.

Risk Factors

People who are at increased risk of exposure to the fungus include:
  • Farmers
  • Construction workers
  • People in the military
  • Archaeologists
  • People who work with or who are frequently exposed to soil
People who are at increased risk of getting valley fever after exposure include:
  • People with weakened immune systems
  • Elderly people
  • African Americans
  • Asians
  • Women in the third trimester of pregnancy

Symptoms

Some people have no symptoms of valley fever. Others may have:
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chill
  • Flu-like symptoms that lasts for weeks or a month, including
    • Night sweats
    • Headache
    • Aching in the joints
  • Rash that consists of painful red bumps
  • Fatigue that lasts longer than a few weeks
The fungus can affect other parts of the body besides the lungs, but it is then called disseminated valley fever.

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
  • Blood tests
  • Sputum smear or culture

Treatment

Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:
  • Bed rest and fluids—Many patients with valley fever do not need treatment with medication. The infection will go away on its own. Bed rest and drinking plenty of fluids will quicken recovery.
  • Antifungal medication—Some patients, especially those with weakened immune systems, chronic diseases, severe pneumonia, disseminated valley fever, meningitis, or primary infection in third trimester of pregnancy may be prescribed an antifungal medication.

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