Coccidioidomycosis (Valley Fever)
About Valley Fever
Valley Fever (medical name coccidioidomycosis [kok-sid-e-oy-do-my-co-sis] or "cocci" for short) is an infection of the lungs caused by a fungus (scientific name Coccidioides immitis or Coccidioides posadasii) that grows in the soil in the southern and central portions of California and the portions of Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, 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 "endemic areas."
The Life Cycle of the Fungus
Experts guess that 30% - 60% of the people who live in an endemic area are infected with the fungus at some point in their lives. Forty percent of people who are infected will develop symptoms such as cough, fever, exhaustion, rash, chest pain, night sweats, joint pain, muscle aches, headaches, weight loss, and lack of appetite. Some symptoms can last for weeks or even months. Most people with symptoms will get better without treatment. Some people may develop severe disease infection outside the lungs or chronic symptoms, which may require medical treatment. Certain groups of people are at higher risk of developing severe disease. In 2012, 12,920 cases of Valley Fever were reported to the Arizona Department of Health Services.
The infectious form of the fungus
Preventing Valley Fever is difficult since anyone who breathes in air in areas where the fungus lives can get it. However, avoiding blowing dust and staying inside during a dust storm is recommended. The best way to protect yourself is learning the signs and symptoms of the disease and if you have them, asking your doctor to test you for it, especially if you have pneumonia.