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Valley Fever: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Diagnosis And Treatment

Valley fever, also called coccidioidomycosis is a fungal infection caused by the fungus Coccidioides. This fungus is known to survive in the soil found in the Southwestern United States, parts of Mexico and Central and South America.

As per the reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 14,364 cases of valley fever were reported in Arizona, in 2017. People who are above the age of 60 are more likely to get valley fever.

 

What Causes Valley Fever [1]

Valley fever is caused by the fungus Coccidioides immitis or Coccidioides posadasii that grows as a mould in the soil. The mould can live in harsh climate conditions such as cold, heat or drought. It has long filaments that break off and become airborne as spores, usually when the soil is disturbed by farming, construction and wind.

The wind can blow these spores for hundred of miles and breathing in the spores can lead to valley fever.

 

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Types Of Valley Fever

  • Acute coccidioidomycosis- This type of valley fever is often mild and has few symptoms that show up one to three weeks after exposure [2] .
  • Chronic coccidioidomycosis- If acute coccidioidomycosis isn't treated on time, it may progress to a chronic form of pneumonia. It mostly develops in people with a weakened immune system [3] .
  • Disseminated coccidioidomycosis- This happens when the infection spreads from the lungs to other parts of the body, affecting the skin, bones, brain, liver, heart and the membranes in the brain and spinal cord [4] .

Symptoms Of Valley Fever

  • Night sweats
  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Chest pain
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Joint ache
  • Fatigue
  • Red rash
  • Weight loss
  • Low-grade fever
  • Painful lesions in the skull or spine
  • Meningitis
  • Painful, swollen joints
  • Ulcers and skin lesions

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Risk Factors Of Valley Fever [5]

  • People with weakened immunity
  • Diabetic people
  • Pregnant women
  • Environmental exposure
  • People of African-American and Filipino origin have higher chances of getting this disease
  • People who are 60 and older

Complications Of Valley Fever [6]

  • Severe pneumonia
  • Disseminated disease
  • Ruptured lung nodules

Diagnosis Of Valley Fever [7]

It is often difficult to diagnose valley fever because the signs and symptoms are usually vague. So, the doctors conduct the following tests to diagnose valley fever:

  • Sputum smear test- A sputum sample is taken and tested to check for the presence of fungus.
  • Blood tests- Blood tests like enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (EIA) is done to check for antibodies against the fungus.

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Treatment Of Valley Fever

Anti-fungal medications [8]

The doctor may prescribe anti-fungal medications like fluconazole and itraconazole for people with chronic or disseminated coccidioidomycosis. These medications keep the fungus under control or destroy it. These medications have side effects such as diarrhoea, abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and it usually goes away once the medication is stopped.

Rest

People with acute coccidioidomycosis don't require treatment. He or she is carefully monitored and advised complete bed rest.

Prevention Of Valley Fever

  • Wear a mask when you are outside.
  • Stay inside during a dust storm.
  • Wet the soil before digging
View Article References  
  1. [1]   Sprigg, W. A., Nickovic, S., Galgiani, J. N., Pejanovic, G., Petkovic, S., Vujadinovic, M., ... & El-Askary, H. (2014). Regional dust storm modeling for health services: the case of valley fever. Aeolian Research, 14, 53-73.
  2. [2]   Dickson, E. C. (1937). “Valley fever” of the San Joaquin Valley and fungus Coccidioides. California and western medicine, 47(3), 151.
  3. [3]   Anstead, G. M., & Graybill, J. R. (2020). Coccidioidomycosis. In Hunter's Tropical Medicine and Emerging Infectious Diseases (pp. 666-670). Content Repository Only!.
  4. [4]   Rosenstein, N. E., Emery, K. W., Werner, S. B., Kao, A., Johnson, R., Rogers, D., ... & Perkins, B. A. (2001). Risk factors for severe pulmonary and disseminated coccidioidomycosis: Kern County, California, 1995–1996. Clinical infectious diseases, 32(5), 708-714.
  5. [5]   Anyangu, A. S., Gould, L. H., Sharif, S. K., Nguku, P. M., Omolo, J. O., Mutonga, D., … Breiman, R. F. (2010). Risk factors for severe Rift Valley fever infection in Kenya, 2007. The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene, 83(2 Suppl), 14–21.
  6. [6]   Johnson, L., Gaab, E. M., Sanchez, J., Bui, P. Q., Nobile, C. J., Hoyer, K. K., … Ojcius, D. M. (2014). Valley fever: danger lurking in a dust cloud. Microbes and infection, 16(8), 591–600.
  7. [7]   John N. Galgiani, Neil M. Ampel, Janis E. Blair, Antonino Catanzaro, Francesca Geertsma, Susan E. Hoover, Royce H. Johnson, Shimon Kusne, Jeffrey Lisse, Joel D. MacDonald, Shari L. Meyerson, Patricia B. Raksin, John Siever, David A. Stevens, Rebecca Sunenshine, and Nicholas Theodore. 2016 Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) Clinical Practice Guideline for the Treatment of Coccidioidomycosis. Clinical Infectious Diseases, July 2016 
  8. [8]   Jin, J. (2013). Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis). JAMA, 310(22), 2470-2470.

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