Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis)

Dr. Ayush PandeyMBBS,PG Diploma

November 30, 2018

March 06, 2020

Valley Fever
Valley Fever

What is coccidioidomycosis?

Coccidioidomycosis or valley fever is a respiratory infection caused by the fungus Coccidioides. It is mostly seen in the southwestern states of the United States, some parts of Mexico, and Central and South America. An imported isolated case of valley fever was first reported in North India.

What are its main signs and symptoms?

Symptoms usually appear between 1-3 weeks after exposure and last for a few weeks to months. Symptoms include:

About 5%-10% of the affected individuals develop lung problems later. Chronic cases manifest the following symptoms:

  • Low-grade fever
  • Chest pain
  • Weight loss
  • Blood-tinged sputum

If the infection spreads, the following symptoms can develop:

  • Nodules, severe ulcerations of the skin.
  • Painful lesions in the skull and other bones.
  • Painful swollen joints.
  • Meningeal infection (infection of the protective tissue around the brain and spinal cord).

What are its main causes?

It is mainly caused by inhalation of fungal spores. These spores are transferred into the air via dust particles from where, these spores enter into the body, causing infection. However, it is not contagious.

Risk factors include:

  • Exposure to the environment: Inhalation of spores from the surroundings, indoors or near workplaces.
  • Pregnancy: Pregnant women are more vulnerable during the third trimester.
  • Weak immunity: Patients who are HIV-positive or AIDS have increased chances of infection.
  • Age: Older individuals are more susceptible.
  • Ethnicity: Filipino and African people are more prone to developing the infection.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

Since valley fever is difficult to diagnose purely by checking the signs and symptoms alone, the following tests may be ordered:

  • Skin testing.
  • Sputum smears.
  • Blood tests like complete blood count and erythrocyte sedimentation rate.

Treatment includes:

  • Use of antifungal agents: They may cause side effects, but they subside once the treatment is stopped.
  • Careful use of immunosuppressant drugs.

Self-care tips:

  • Adequate rest is needed.
  • Sufficient fluid intake is important.
  • Avoid working in dust-prone or windy areas.
  • Stay indoors during bad weather.
  • Use air filtration inside your room and use respirator masks.
  • Clean wounds with antiseptics to prevent an infection.

Valley fever can be easily prevented if the necessary steps are followed. If any of the signs or symptoms go beyond control, immediately consult your physician to avoid further complications.

(Read more: Fungal infections treatment)



References

  1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Diagnosis and Testing for Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis)
  2. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Valley Fever
  3. Vikram Narang, Bhavna Garg, Neena Sood, Sukhjot Kaur Goraya. Primary Cutaneous Coccidioidomycosis: First Imported Case in North India. Indian J Dermatol. 2014 Jul-Aug; 59(4): 422. PMID: 25071284
  4. Neil M. Ampel. The treatment of coccidioidomycosis. Rev Inst Med Trop Sao Paulo. 2015 Sep; 57(Suppl 19): 51–56. PMID: 26465370
  5. Center for Disease Control and Prevention [internet], Atlanta (GA): US Department of Health and Human Services; Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis)
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