Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis)

What is valley fever?

Valley fever is a disease caused by a fungus (mold). It usually affects the lungs but can affect other parts of the body as well. It is also commonly called cocci (pronounced “cock-see”). The medical term for this disease is coccidioidomycosis.

What is the cause?

The fungus lives in the soil of the central valley of California and the deserts of the southwestern US and northwestern Mexico. You can get infected by breathing in dust that contains the fungus while you are camping, working, or digging in the desert. Desert winds can also carry the fungus. You cannot catch valley fever from an animal or another person.

What are the symptoms?

Many people have no symptoms. If you do have symptoms, they usually begin 1 to 2 weeks after breathing in the fungus. Symptoms may include:

  • Fever and chills
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Feeling tired all the time
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Rash

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history and examine you. He or she may suspect that you have valley fever if:

  • You live in or have visited places where the fungus is found.
  • Your symptoms, especially breathing problems or a cough, last longer or are more severe than the flu.

You may have blood tests. You may have a chest X-ray or CT scan of your chest if you have a cough or chest pain.

How is it treated?

Most cases do not need to be treated. If you do need treatment, your healthcare provider may prescribe pills to kill the fungus. You may need to take the medicine for a long time.

In severe cases you may need to go to the hospital for medicine given by IV. You may need these medicines for many months.

If the fungus spreads to other parts of your body, such as your brain, bones, or a joint, it can be very serious. You may need surgery or long term treatment with medicines.

How can I take care of myself?

Follow the full course of treatment prescribed by your healthcare provider. In addition:

  • Contact your healthcare provider if you have new or worsening symptoms.

Ask your provider:

  • How and when you will hear your test results
  • How long it will take to recover
  • If there are activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.

How can I help prevent valley fever?

If you are camping, working, or digging in southwestern desert areas, wear a surgical-type mask or bandanna over your mouth and nose to avoid breathing in the fungus.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-07-31
Last reviewed: 2014-07-31
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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