Coccidioidomycosis is a fungal infection that can affect the lungs. In some people, the infection can be serious and needs treatment.
Coccidioidomycosis is caused by a fungus found in the soil of certain areas. When soil with the fungus is disturbed, it gets into the air. From there, it can be inhaled into the lungs.
The disease cannot spread from person to person.
Coccidioidomycosis is found in the southwestern and western United States. It is also found in parts of Central and South America. The risk is highest for people living, working, or traveling in those areas.
People exposed to dirt and dust are at higher risk. This includes:
- Construction workers
- People in the military
Coccidioidomycosis is more common in men, older adults, and people of African or Filipino descent. Other things that may raise the risk are:
- A weakened immune system from problems like cancer or autoimmune disorders
- Pregnancy, especially in the third trimester
- Genetic changes that affect the immune system
Most people with coccidioidomycosis do not have symptoms. In those who do, symptoms happen 7 to 21 days after exposure. They may be:
- Fever and chills
- Chest pain
- Feeling tired or weak—may last a few months
- Aching joints
- Skin rash
- Problems breathing
Sometimes the fungus affects other parts of the body.
The doctor will ask about symptoms, past health, and travel history. A physical exam will be done.
Tests will be done to look for signs of infection. This can be done with:
- Blood tests
- A sputum smear or culture
- Lumbar puncture to test the fluid around the brain and spine
Pictures may be taken of the body to look for changes. This can be done with:
If the diagnosis is not clear, a sample of tissue may be taken for testing to look for signs of infection. This can be done with a biopsy.
Most people get better without treatment. People with severe symptoms or those at higher risk of problems may need:
- Supportive care, such as rest and fluids
- Antifungal medicine
- Surgery to remove affected tissue
To reduce the risk of Valley fever in high risk areas:
- Avoid dust, gardening, digging, and yard work.
- Wear an safety mask when working in soil or in dusty areas.
- Use air filtration indoors.
- Clean wounds after contact with dust or soil.
- About valley fever. Valley Fever Center for Excellence website. Available at http://vfce.arizona.edu/valley-fever-people/about-valley-fever.
- Coccidioidomycosis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/coccidioidomycosis .
- Gabe LM, Malo J, et al. Diagnosis and management of coccidioidomycosis. Clin Chest Med. 2017;38(3):417-433.
- Valley fever (coccidioidomycosis) risk & prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/coccidioidomycosis/risk-prevention.html.
- David L. Horn, MD, FACP
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