Coccidioidomycosis (Valley Fever)
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- Show All
- Hide All
- Print All
Click on the question to view the answer.
What is Valley Fever?
Valley Fever (medical name coccidioidomycosis or "cocci" for
short) is an infection in the lungs caused by a fungus (scientific name Coccidioides
immitis) that grows in the soil in the southern and central portions of
California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and the southern portions of Nevada
and Utah. Valley Fever is also found in parts of Mexico, Central and South
America. These areas where the fungus grows in the soil are called
Who can get Valley Fever?
Anyone who lives, visits, or travels through the areas where the fungus
grows in the soil may acquire Valley Fever. People working in certain
occupations such as construction, excavation, agriculture, archaeological digging and
other occupations which disturb soil in endemic areas may be at increased
risk of exposure. Persons who pursue recreational activities such as biking
or driving ATVs or 4-wheel drive vehicles in the desert may be at
increased risk. Various
domestic animals such as dogs and horses as well as wild animals are also
How is Valley Fever spread?
Valley Fever is acquired by inhaling one or more airborne spores of the
fungus Coccidioides immitis
. The spores are carried in dust particles
from the soil by the wind when the desert soil is disturbed.
Valley Fever is NOT spread from human to human, or animal to animal, or
animal to human, or human to animal. The spores change form in tissues of the
body and are not contagious in tissue form.
What are the symptoms of Valley Fever?
Most cases (60%) have no symptoms or only very mild flu-like symptoms and
do not see a doctor. When symptoms are present, the most common are fatigue,
cough, fever, profuse sweating at night, loss of appetite, chest pain,
generalized muscle and joint aches particularly of the ankles and knees.
There may also be a rash that resembles measles or hives but develops more
often as tender red bumps on the shins or forearms.
Patients with chronic Valley Fever infections present with chronic
systemic symptoms such as low grade fever, weight loss, cough, chest pain
and hemoptysis. These symptoms are often indolent and resemble tuberculosis
when coupled with x-ray findings.
How long does it take for symptoms to appear?
Symptoms usually develop within 7-28 days after exposure.
What is dissemination?
Dissemination is the spread of the fungal infection from the lungs to
other parts of the body. The most common sites of dissemination in Valley
Fever are skin, bones, joints and brain meninges. Cocci meningitis is the
What is the treatment for Valley Fever?
Before the availability of antifungal medications, the natural history of
initial pulmonary infections was determined to resolve in at least 95% of
patients. Studies have not been completed yet to determine if drug therapy
hastens the resolution of immediate symptoms or prevents subsequent
complications. The physician usually monitors the progress of the patient by
chest x-rays, following the cocci serology (blood test) titer and the
severity and duration of symptoms. This may require frequent visits to the
doctor. If weight loss and night sweats continue, infiltrates in the lungs
enlarge, and the inability to work persists, antifungal medication usually
What can be done to prevent Valley Fever?
There is no prevention or vaccine at this time. Avoiding activities
associated with dust and airborne dirt of native desert soil is recommended,
but it is not a certain means of prevention. Some occupations recommend
wearing masks. Use common sense and stay out of the blowing dust.
This information was taken from the Valley
Fever Center for Excellence website FAQ.