Fitness Facts: Valley fever
By Lily Limon
Family Nurse Practitioner, Canyon Health and Wellness Center
On average, roughly 10,000 cases of Valley fever, also known as coccidioidomycosis, are reported in the United States annually.
Most cases originated in Arizona and California. It is very important to know the symptoms so you can get treated – many cases are misdiagnosed because of similarity of presenting symptoms.
Valley fever is a pulmonary infection caused by a fungus that lives in the ground soil and, when disrupted, becomes airborne and is inhaled. According to the CDC, 2019, “Valley fever is a fungal lung infection that can be devastating. Learning about Valley fever can help you and your doctor recognize the symptoms early.”
The soil-dwelling spore that causes Valley fever is acquired by inhaling the microscopic fungus from the air; however, it is not transmitted from person to person. The common symptoms include fatigue, cough, fever, headache, shortness of breath, night sweats, muscle aches and pains, and rash on upper body or legs.
Most individuals recover without treatment because of the similarity of presenting symptoms after a few weeks or months. However, severe lung infections are treated with hospitalization in rare cases.
The most at-risk populations are those who travel or reside in the endemic areas, the elderly, the immunocompromised, those who just had transplants, individuals who are taking corticosteroids or tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitors, pregnant women, diabetics and African Americans or Filipinos.
Awareness is the key to prevention.
According to the CDC, 2019, “In areas where Valley fever is common, it’s difficult to completely avoid exposure to the fungus because it is in the environment. There is no vaccine to prevent infection. That’s why knowing about Valley fever is one of the most important ways to avoid delays in diagnosis and treatment. People who have Valley fever symptoms and live in or have visited an area where the fungus is common should ask their doctor to test them for Valley fever.”
Join the CDC in sharing information to increase awareness in your community about fungal diseases during Fungal Disease Awareness Week, scheduled for Sept. 23-27.