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Definition

What is Coccidioidomycosis?

Coccidioidomycosis, also called valley fever, is a fungal infection caused by the fungus Coccidioides. The fungus is known to live in the soil in the southwestern United States and parts of Mexico and Central and South America. The fungus was also recently found in south-central Washington. People can get Valley fever by breathing in the microscopic fungal spores from the air, although most people who breathe in the spores don’t get sick. Usually, people who get sick with Valley fever will get better on their own within weeks to months, but some people will need antifungal medication. Certain groups of people are at higher risk for becoming severely ill. It’s difficult to prevent exposure to Coccidioides in areas where it’s common in the environment, but people who are at higher risk for severe Valley fever should try to avoid breathing in large amounts of dust if they’re in these areas.

How common is Coccidioidomycosis?

Anyone who lives in or travels to the southwestern United States (Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, or Utah), or parts of Mexico or Central or South America can get Valley fever. Valley fever can influence people of any age, but it’s much more common in adults aged 60 and older

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of Coccidioidomycosis?

Many people who are exposed to the fungus Coccidioides rarely have symptoms. Other people may have flu-like symptoms that go usually away on their own after weeks to months. If your signs and symptoms last for more than a week, please contact to your healthcare provider for further information.

Some common signs and symptoms of Valley fever include:

  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Cough
  • Fever
  • Shortness of breath
  • Headache
  • Night sweats
  • Muscle aches or joint pain
  • Rash on upper body or legs

In extremely rare cases, the fungal spores can enter the skin through a cut, wound, or splinter and cause a skin infection.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes Coccidioidomycosis?

The fungi that cause valley fever, usually Coccidioides immitis or Coccidioides posadasii, thrive in the arid desert soils of southern Arizona, Nevada, northern Mexico and California’s San Joaquin Valley. They’re also endemic to New Mexico, Texas, and parts of Central and South America — areas with mild winters and arid summers.

Like many other fungi, coccidioides species have a complex life cycle. In the soil, they grow as a mold with long filaments that break off into airborne spores when the soil is disturbed.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for Coccidioidomycosis?

There are many risk factors for Coccidioidomycosis, such as:

  • Anyone who lives in or travels to the southwestern United States (Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, or Utah), or parts of Mexico or Central or South America can get Valley fever. Valley fever can affect people of any age, but it’s most common in adults aged 60 and older.
  • Certain groups of people may be at higher risk for developing the severe forms of Valley fever, such as:
  • People who have weakened immune systems, for example, people who have HIV/AIDS, have had an organ transplant, are taking medications such as corticosteroids or TNF-inhibitors
  • Pregnant women
  • People who have diabetes

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is Coccidioidomycosis diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you may experience this condition, a physical examination will be performed and some tests will be also recommended by your doctor. The most common way that healthcare providers test for Valley fever is by taking a blood sample and sending it to a laboratory to look for Coccidioides antibodies or antigens.

Healthcare providers may do imaging tests such as chest x-rays or CT scans of your lungs to look for Valley fever pneumonia. They may also perform a tissue biopsy, in which a small sample of tissue is taken from the body and examined under a microscope. Laboratories may also see if Coccidioides will grow from body fluids or tissues.

How is Coccidioidomycosis treated?

For many people, the symptoms of Valley fever will go away within a few months without any treatment. Healthcare providers prescribe antifungal medication for some people to try to reduce the severity of symptoms or prevent the infection from getting worse. Antifungal medication is typically given to people who are at higher risk for developing severe Valley fever. The treatment is usually 3 to 6 months of fluconazole or another type of antifungal medication. The healthcare provider who diagnoses you with Valley fever may suggest that you see other healthcare providers who specialize in treating Valley fever.

People who have severe lung infections or infections that have spread to other parts of the body always need antifungal treatment and may need to stay in the hospital. For these types of infections, the course of treatment is usually longer than 6 months. Valley fever that develops into meningitis is fatal if it’s not treated, so lifelong antifungal treatment is necessary for those cases.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage Coccidioidomycosis?

If you live in or visit areas where valley fever is common, take commonsense precautions, especially during the summer months when the chance of infection is highest. Consider wearing a mask, staying inside during dust storms, wetting the soil before digging, and keeping doors and windows tightly closed.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: August 10, 2017 | Last Modified: August 10, 2017

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