Feb 2, 2024
Valley fever is caused by a fungus called coccidioides. Among other symptoms, fever, coughing, and exhaustion are possible manifestations.
Two varieties of coccidioides fungi are the cause of valley fever. These fungi are commonly found on earth in some places. The fungus can release its spores into the atmosphere by wind, building, farming, and other soil-agitating activities.
At that point, people can inhale the fungus. The fungi can produce a disease known as acute coccidioidomycosis, sometimes known as valley fever. When valley fever is minor, it usually goes away on its own. In more severe cases of infection, physicians treat patients with antifungal medications.
The specific fungal spores that cause valley fever are inhaled. The fungus that causes valley fever, Coccidioides immitis or Coccidioides posadasii, is found in the soil in some parts of Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, California, Texas, and Washington. The San Joaquin Valley in California is where it gets its name. Furthermore, the fungi are commonly found in northern Mexico and Central and South America.
Like many other fungi, coccidioides species have a complex life cycle. When disturbed, their long filamentous mold, which forms in the soil, breaks apart to release airborne spores. The spores can then be breathed in.
Because the spores are so small, the wind can carry them quite far. Once the spores enter the lungs, they continue the sickness cycle.
Valley fever is the initial sign of coccidioidomycosis infection. Potentially, this first, acute disease could develop into a more serious condition like widespread, chronic coccidioidomycosis.
First or acute coccidioidomycosis usually presents with little or no symptoms. Signs and symptoms start to show up one to three weeks after exposure. They often mimic symptoms of the flu. Symptoms can range from moderate to severe and could include:
You won't get valley fever symptoms or get sick immediately away, so you might not get infected until much later. You may find out if a routine chest X-ray shows nodules, which are little areas of residual infection in the lungs, or if a skin or blood test comes up positive. Even while the nodules typically cause no problems, X-rays may reveal that they are malignant.
If you do have symptoms, especially if they are severe, the course of the illness is not predictable. Tiredness and joint pain could persist for a lot longer. Several factors, including your overall health and the amount of fungus spores present, influence the severity of the sickness.
A chronic form of pneumonia may arise if the initial bout of coccidioidomycosis infection does not fully resolve. This outcome is more likely to occur in those with weakened immune systems.
Some of the signs and symptoms include:
It is uncommon to have disseminated coccidioidomycosis, the most severe form of the disease. When an infection "disseminates," or moves from the lungs to other parts of the body, it results.
These parts frequently include the skin, bones, liver, brain, and heart in addition to the meninges, which are membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.
Signs and symptoms of disseminated disease might vary depending on the affected body parts and may include:
Risk factors for valley fever include:
To diagnose valley fever, your doctor may look at your symptoms, indicators, and medical history. Based only on signs and symptoms, diagnosing valley fever can be difficult because the illness's symptoms are often vague and similar to those of other conditions. Not even a chest X-ray can help doctors differentiate valley fever from other kinds of lung diseases like pneumonia.
The following tests may be ordered by medical professionals to identify valley fever:
For valley fever, supportive care is usually enough, although medication is sometimes needed as well. Patients with acute valley fever usually don't require medical care. However, doctors keep an attentive watch on patients who have valley fever.
If you are more prone to suffer repercussions, your symptoms worsen, persist longer, or neither, your doctor may prescribe an antifungal medication such as fluconazole. Patients with chronic or extensive diseases are also offered antifungal medicines.
For all but the most severe cases of coccidioidomycosis disease, the antifungal drugs itraconazole or fluconazole are typically administered.
All antifungals have adverse effects that could be dangerous. However, these adverse effects typically go away if the medication is stopped. Among the adverse effects of fluconazole and itraconazole are vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and nausea.
The adverse effects of fluconazole include hair loss, dry lips, chapped lips, and dry skin.
First, for more serious infections, an injectable antifungal medication such as amphotericin B may be utilized.
Three additional modern medications, isavuconazonium sulfate, posaconazole, and voriconazole, can also be used to treat more serious infections.
For many people, a single valley fever bout can confer lifetime immunity. But if you have a seriously weakened immune system, you can get sick again or the sickness might return.
Vaccination is not a preventive measure for valley fever.
If you live in or visit areas where valley fever is common, take appropriate precautions. The dry season that comes after a wet season is when there is the most chance of infection.
Consider the following ideas:
Pregnant women, those with weakened immune systems (such as those with HIV/AIDS), and people of Filipino or African heritage are more susceptible to a more severe form of coccidioidomycosis.
Among the consequences of coccidioidomycosis are:
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