Valley Fever or Coccidioidomycosis: Causes, Risk Factors, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment, Prevention
Valley Fever or Coccidioidomycosis- This is a medical condition caused by an organism called Coccidioides which causes fever, chest pain, cough etc…
What Is Valley Fever or Coccidioidomycosis?
Valley Fever or Coccidioidomycosis is a form of a fungal infection which is caused by an organism called Coccidioides which causes fever, chest pain, coughing etc. There are two species of Coccidioides which causes Valley Fever or Coccidioidomycosis which are usually found in soil in certain areas and can become air borne if the soil containing these organisms is disrupted in any way like farming, construction etc. This organism then infiltrates the lungs through the air and causes Valley Fever or Coccidioidomycosis. Mild cases of Valley Fever or Coccidioidomycosis are usually self limiting and resolve without the need for any treatment but more severe cases require use of antifungal medications for treatment.
Causes Of Valley Fever Or Coccidioidomycosis
The fungi which cause Valley Fever or Coccidioidomycosis are usually found in the areas of Arizona, Nevada, Northern Mexico and San Joaquin Valley in California. They are also found in abundance in Texas and certain areas of Central and South America. They especially thrive in areas where the winter season is mild and summers are really hot.
Like the lifecycle of many fungi, Coccidioides grow in the soil as molds and become spores when they become airborne due to disruption in soil due to any reason. Since the spores are extremely small and light they are carried many a miles through wind and are very contagious.
Risk Factors For Valley Fever Or Coccidioidomycosis
- Environmental Exposure: Anyone who unfortunately inhales the spores containing organisms causing Valley Fever or Coccidioidomycosis is at definite risk for contracting this disease. Studies indicate that more than 50% of people living in areas where Valley Fever or Coccidioidomycosis is common have been infected. People who are exposed to dust during work like people who work in construction, road, ranchers, archeologists, and military personnel are at higher risk of developing Valley Fever or Coccidioidomycosis.
- Race: The exact reason is not known but Valley Fever or Coccidioidomycosis is found more in Filipinos, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Asians.
- Pregnancy: Pregnant females are also at risk for developing Valley Fever or Coccidioidomycosis.
- Compromised Immune System: Anyone with a compromised immune system or is being treated with drugs like steroids, chemotherapy medications, or medications given after a major transplant are at higher risk for developing this disease.
- Age: The elderly population is more likely to develop Valley Fever or Coccidioidomycosis than the younger population as their immune system gets poor with age.
Symptoms Of Valley Fever Or Coccidioidomycosis
The symptoms of Valley Fever or Coccidioidomycosis are generally observed after about three weeks of exposure to the organism.
Some Of The Symptoms Of Valley Fever Or Coccidioidomycosis Are:
- Chest pain, which may at times be acute
- Night sweats
- Joint pains
How Is Valley Fever Or Coccidioidomycosis Diagnosed?
Valley Fever or Coccidioidomycosis is a difficult medical condition to diagnose just on the basis of the symptoms observed as the symptoms are similar to that of other medical conditions. For confirmatory diagnosis, it is essential to identify Coccidioides organisms in tissues, blood, or other secretions. Hence the following tests are conducted:
Sputum Culture: This test checks the sputum which is discharged while coughing to look for the offending Coccidioides organism.
Blood Tests: This may be done to look for antibodies for the fungi causing Valley Fever or Coccidioidomycosis.
Treatment For Valley Fever Or Coccidioidomycosis
- Rest: Majority of people infected with Valley Fever or Coccidioidomycosis do not require any treatment as it is a self-limiting disease and resolves on its own. Hence the best treatment for this disease is adequate bed rest and taking in adequate amounts of fluids
- Antifungal Medications: If there is no improvement in the condition of the individual despite adequate rest, then the treating physician may prescribe antifungal medications like diflucan. With use of medications there is bound to be some side effects. The most common side effects of antifungal medications are nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, or diarrhea but all these side effects abate when the medication is stopped.
- I.V. Medications: A serious case of Valley Fever or Coccidioidomycosis may also be treated with IV medications like amphotericin B.
How Can Valley Fever Or Coccidioidomycosis Be Prevented?
In case if an individual is in the area mentioned above where Valley Fever or Coccidioidomycosis is quite common then the individual needs to take safety measures like using a face mask, not venturing out during dust storms, keeping the doors and windows closed or protected against dust from coming in.