Coccidioidomycosis

(Valley Fever)

Definition

Coccidioidomycosis, commonly called valley fever, is a potentially-serious lung infection.

Causes

Vally fever is caused by a fungal infection. 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. Though the fungus lives in the soil, 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, especially in the form of dust
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

Most people have no symptoms of valley fever. If present symptoms may include:
  • 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, and is 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
  • Spinal fluid analysis if there are neurologic symptoms
  • Tests from other infected sites
X-rays or CT scan may be done to see how much your lungs have been affected.

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