What is Valley Fever and Why Should You Care?

According to the Center for Disease Control and Protection, Valley fever is a fungal respiratory disease that can be devastating. Learning about valley fever can help you and your doctor recognize the symptoms early.

Valley fever, also called coccidioidomycosis, is an infection caused by the fungus Coccidioides. People can get it by breathing in the microscopic fungal spores from the air, although most people who breathe in the spores do not get sick.

The fungus lives in the soil of the southwestern United States and parts of Mexico, Central America and South America. One study indicated that over 20,000 cases are reported each year. Some researchers estimate that each year the fungus attacks more than 150,000 people.

The disease can be difficult to diagnose, especially if you are unaware of it. Symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Chest pain — varying from a mild feeling of constriction to intense pressure resembling a heart attack
  • Chills
  • Night sweats
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Joint aches
  • Red, spotty rash

Valley fever is not contagious but can progress to a chronic form of pneumonia. The infection can spread to other parts of the body such as into the skin, bones, liver and brain. Generally, it goes away on its own but see a doctor if symptoms do not improve.

Valley fever cases are escalating; anyone can get it including babies and animals. There is not a vaccine to prevent the infection but your healthcare provider can test for the infection. Some people are at a higher risk of getting the disease and will need antifungal treatment.

More awareness about valley fever is key for communities as well as health care providers that may misdiagnosis as a respiratory infection. Without catching this disease early on, Valley fever can cause severe complications.

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