Valley Fever

What is Valley Fever?

Coccidioidomycosis, which is commonly referred to as Valley Fever, is caused by the fungus Coccidioides. This fungus lives within the soil of desert regions, such as areas in the southwest United States. Valley fever is along infections that needs to be diagnosed as soon as possible, since this disease can also spread to other parts of the body and even cause  neurological damage.

Individuals become infected when they inhale dust that has been contaminated with the fungus, but this disease cannot be transferred from one person to another.

What are the Symptoms of Valley Fever?

Many people who contract Valley Fever will not exhibit any symptoms, or they might only have very mild flu-like symptoms.

Individuals who do exhibit signs of this disease will often feel as though they have a cold or the flu. They might experience chills, fever, a dry cough, a rash on upper body (and sometimes legs), and chest pain.  Additionally, people affected by valley fever will also often go through shortness of breath, night sweats, muscle and joint pain.

Valley Fever Causes

Valley fever is a fungal disease that is caused when you inhale fungal spores. It’s caused by a fungus Coccidioides immitis (C. immitis) and Coccidioides posadasii (C. posadasii). These fungi originate from the soil and have been found in South Western parts of the United States, South America, and Central America.

It’s important to note that the fever doesn’t pass from one person to another but due to the nature of the fungi, it can travel several miles, making several people susceptible to the valley fever.

How is Valley Fever Treated?

Many people who are infected with Valley Fever will get better on their own, even without any treatment.

However, if a person’s immune system isn’t strong enough, this condition could be fatal. It could also be deadly in those with a normal immune system if it spreads from the lungs to other areas of the body, such as the organs, lymph nodes, skin, and bones. It could even cause meningitis, which is a serious infection involving the spinal cord and brain.

For more severe cases of Valley Fever, a doctor might prescribe antifungal medications and hospitalization. Follow-up exams, x-rays of the chest, and blood tests can also be used to ensure that an individual is overcoming the condition.

People who are at higher risk of contracting a severe form of coccidioidomycosis include pregnant women, people with an underlying condition that affects their immune system, people with diabetes,  and patients who are weakened by surgery (such as organ transplant) or are currently being treated with corticosteroids or tumor necrosis factor inhibitors.

Valley Fever Prevention

Creating awareness for pregnant mothers to seek medication to avoid being casualties of valley fever is one of the ways people can prevent the disease. Ensure that people who have recently traveled to valley fever locations understand the risks and the importance of seeking medication.

For any signs of valley fever, you need to see a doctor who will check for the common symptoms of valley fever to administer treatment. The doctors perform blood tests and or a sputum smear test where a sample of sputum is taken and tested for the presence of the fungus. The blood test will check if there are antibodies against the fungus.

For acute coccidioidomycosis, you need to have enough rest and take a lot of liquids. A doctor may prescribe antifungal drugs for victims that have the following complications; people of 60 years and above due to weak immune systems, cancer or HIV/AIDS patients, patients with diabetic conditions or pregnant women. This is also dependent on ethnicity susceptibility i.e. Filipino or African-American people.

Depending on your condition, doctors can administer antifungal drugs such as fluconazole and itraconazole. These drugs prevent valley fever but have side effects like vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea – however, with medication, these effects will subside.

Last Reviewed:
October 11, 2016
Last Updated:
September 10, 2017