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What is valley fever?

Valley fever is an infection caused by the fungus Coccidioides. The infection is typically in the lungs, but it can spread to other parts of the body. The fungus lives in the soil and can be found in the southwest United States, south-central Washington, Mexico, and parts of Central and South America.

How do people get valley fever?

People can get valley fever by breathing in spores of the fungi in areas it is most common.

What are the symptoms of valley fever?

Most people who contract the fungi do not get sick. Others experience flu-like symptoms that could last weeks or month. If your symptoms last longer than a week, call your healthcare provider. Symptoms usually show between 1 and 3 weeks after someone breathes in the spores. Symptoms can last weeks or months. 5-10% of people who contract valley fever will experience serious or long-term problems with their lungs. Symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Night sweats
  • Muscle aches or joint pain
  • Rash on legs or body
  • Skin infection through cut or wound in extremely rare cases

Who is at risk for valley fever?

  • People who live in southwestern U.S., south-central Washington, Mexico, or Central or South America.
  • People over the age of 60
  • People with compromised immune systems
  • Pregnant women
  • Diabetes patients
  • People who are black or Filipino

Is valley fever contagious?

No, the fungus cannot be passed between two persons.

How can I prevent valley fever?

  • Avoid dusty areas in places that valley fever is present
  • Stay inside during dust storms and close your windows and doors
  • Use air filtration indoors
  • Avoid activities involving dust and dusty areas
  • Clean skin injuries and use proper bandage

How is valley fever diagnosed?

  • Medical and travel history
  • Symptoms
  • Physical exams
  • Blood tests
  • Chest x-rays
  • CT scans of the chest
  • Tissue biopsy

How is valley fever treated?

Many patients with valley fever do not require treatment and will recover within a few weeks. For more severe cases, an antifungal treatment may be necessary. Talk to your healthcare provider if you believe you have a severe case of valley fever. Although most patients will make a full recovery, in rare cases, a patient may develop more serious lung conditions.

For more information on valley fever, visit http://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/coccidioidomycosis/index.html.