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Valley Fever

Alternate Names

  • San Joaquin Valley Fever
  • coccidioidomycosis

Definition

Valley fever, also known as coccidioidomycosis, is an infection, usually in the lungs, caused by the fungus Coccidioides immitis. It is called valley fever because the fungus is commonly found in the soil of the valleys of the southwestern US, Mexico, and parts of Central and South America.

What is going on in the body?

Valley fever may cause a range of mild symptoms, and a mild lung infection. Sometimes the infection may be severe and progressive, and spread throughout the body, which can be fatal.

Risks

What are the causes and risks of the infection?

Valley fever is caused by a fungus that thrives in the soil. An infection occurs when a person breathes in dust from soil that contains the fungus. The disease is commonly found in California's San Joaquin Valley, southern and central Arizona, and southwest Texas. A person who works outdoors in those areas may be at a higher risk.

Prevention

What can be done to prevent the infection?

Currently there is no known way to prevent the infection. A person who lives in the areas where the infection is common should avoid exposure to dust and dry soil as much as possible.

Diagnosed

How is the infection diagnosed?

A healthcare professional may suspect this infection if the person lives in or has recently traveled through an area where this fungus is common. A history and physical exam may reveal some of the symptoms common to valley fever. A chest x-ray, blood tests, including a complete blood count or CBC, and a spinal tap may also be done. A fungal blood culture will reveal the presence of the infection.

Long Term Effects

What are the long-term effects of the infection?

Valley fever can form lung abscesses, or pus pockets, which can be difficult to treat. Occasionally the infection spreads throughout the body, causing lesions in the bones and other organs. In those cases, the mortality rate can reach 60%. In rare cases, the disease may recur within a few months. Valley fever tends to be more serious in dark-skinned people, pregnant women, or people with weakened immune systems.

Other Risks

What are the risks to others?

Valley fever may be spread to others through contaminated dressings of infected people.

Treatments

What are the treatments for the infection?

The acute form of valley fever normally clears up without treatment. Bed rest and fever- reducing medications may be recommended. In more severe cases, fungus-killing medications may be used. A healthcare professional may prescribe amphotericin B to be given through a vein. In cases of recurrence, a medication such as ketoconazole may be prescribed between courses of amphotericin. In severe cases, surgery may be needed to drain abscesses in the lungs.

Side Effects

What are the side effects of the treatments?

Possible side effects of the medications include stomach upset, allergic reactions, and irritation at the site in the vein where the medication is being given. Surgery can be complicated by infection, bleeding, or an allergic reaction to the anesthetic.

After Treatment

What happens after treatment for the infection?

After treatment, valley fever usually goes away. In rare cases, the infection recurs, and further treatment is needed.

Monitor

How is the infection monitored?

In cases of continued infection, the person may be monitored for recurrent symptoms. Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the healthcare professional.

Sources

Valley Fever Facts, [hyperLink url=">http://www.astdhpphe.orginfect/valley.html" linkTitle="www.astdhpphe.orginfect/valley.html"]www.astdhpphe.orginfect/valley.html[/hyperLink]

Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, [hyperLink url="http://www.cdc.gov/" linkTitle="www.cdc.gov"]www.cdc.gov[/hyperLink]

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