Now that summer has arrived people are spending more time outside
riding ATVs or horses, jogging, mountain biking, and participating in other
activities, we traditionally see an increase in cases of coccidioidomycosis.
Coccidioidos is better known as valley fever, this disease causes flu-like symptoms including fever, cough, headache, rash, muscle aches, and joint pain. It is caused when a fungus found in the soil of dry, low-rainfall areas, like that of the Desert Southwest, is inhaled into the lungs.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 20,000 cases of valley fever were reported in the United States in 2011, but many more cases—more than 150,000—probably went undiagnosed. At least 30 to 60 percent of the people who live in the region where the fungus is found, including Utah, are exposed at some point during their lives.
Valley fever is not passed from person to person, and is usually a self-limited illness that stays in the lungs, causing a dry cough, fever, and sometimes pneumonia. In rare cases the infection can escape the lungs and go to the bones or nervous system, causing complications like meningitis, infections in the bones or joints, or even death.
Those who are at an increased risk for contracting valley fever include pregnant women, those of African American or Filipino descent, and those with depressed immune systems.
If you have had routine exposure to dirt or dust, including that from construction, are symptomatic, or are part of the high-risk population for valley fever and you have concerns, you may want to consult your healthcare provider to be tested. Valley fever is a reportable disease, and cases are tracked by the health department. A blood test can confirm valley fever, but it is not part of routine blood work.
There is no vaccine to prevent valley fever, and it can be very difficult to avoid being exposed to the fungus that causes it. It is treated with a prescription antifungal medication. While valley fever generally resolves spontaneously without treatment, diagnosis and medication can help prevent complications in at-risk individuals.
Post by: Dr. Theodore Moon