Coccidioidomycosis

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

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and do a physical exam.

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.

Prevention

There is no completely effective way to prevent being infected with valley fever. Take extra precautions in areas where the infection is most common and during months when the chance of infection is increased.

To help reduce your chances of getting valley fever, take the following steps:

  • When working outside in the soil, especially in areas where the fungus is common, you should:
    • Always wear a mask.
    • Wet the soil to reduce the spores in the air.
  • Keep doors and windows tightly closed in areas where the fungus is common.
  • Go inside during a dust storm.

Revisions

All EBSCO Publishing proprietary, consumer health and medical information found on this site is accredited by URAC. URAC's Health Web Site Accreditation Program requires compliance with 53 rigorous standards of quality and accountability, verified by independent audits. To send comments or feedback to our Editorial Team regarding the content please email us at HLEditorialTeam@ebscohost.com.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Editorial Policy | Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions | Support
Copyright © 2008 EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.

Confused by nutrition labels? Just look for foods that are lower in fat (especially trans fats and saturated fats), low in sodium and high in fiber.